In a 5-to-4 majority decision, the US Supreme Court ruled that the 2010 health care reform law introduced by President Obama was authorized under Congress’ power. The court didn’t just rule on the authorization of the law but upheld the law in its entirety, meaning that changes in health insurance are underway.
Chief Justice John Roberts announced the decision, which maintains the individual mandate that requires Americans to purchase health insurance or face a penalty. Although five justices including Roberts determined that Congress does not have the power to enact the individual mandate, it was the penalty included that ultimately saved the law.
Roberts wrote, “The individual mandate cannot be upheld as an exercise of Congress’s power under the Commerce Clause.” “That clause authorizes Congress to regulate interstate commerce, not to order individuals to engage in it.” “In this case, however, it is reasonable to construe what Congress has done as increasing taxes on those who have a certain amount of income, but choose to go without health insurance. Such legislation is within Congress’s power to tax,” Roberts wrote.
He added, “The Affordable Care Act’s requirement that certain individuals pay a financial penalty for not obtaining health insurance may reasonably be characterized as a tax. Because the Constitution permits such a tax, it is not our role to forbid it, or to pass upon its wisdom or fairness,” he wrote.
On the other side of the argument was the dissenting opinion which criticized the majority’s interpretation of the law. “The majority rewrites the statute Congress wrote … What Congress called a penalty, the court calls a tax,” Justice Anthony Kennedy said. “The holding that the individual mandate is a tax raises a difficult constitutional question … that the court resolves with inadequate deliberation,” Kennedy said.
The law will undoubtedly affect health care for Americans especially for young adults and the uninsured. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Affordable Care Act helped about 2.5 million adults between ages 19-25 attain health insurance and children of parents with insurance are covered until they are 26.
People who are currently uninsured will either have to get insurance or face the aforementioned penalty which begins in 2014. The penalty will be 1% of income or $285 per family, whichever one is greater and will increase to 2.5% of income or $2,085 per family by 2016.
Regardless of the courts decision however, the law is still receiving mixed views from Americans. The dispute over how the law would affect the country is still in place. The law is reported to cost the country more than $1 trillion dollars over the next 10 years. According to CNN, the CBO (Congressional budget office) said a repeal of the mandate could decrease “deficits by $282 billion over 10 years, because the government would be subsidizing insurance for fewer people.” However, having uninsured Americans also creates its own problems for the country. Without the mandate, 40 million people would remain uninsured according to the Urban Institute’s Health Policy Center.
Do you agree with the Supreme Court’s decision and what do you think about the health care law?Tags: Affordable Care Act, CBO, Chief Justice John Roberts, CNN, Congress, Justice Anthony Kennedy, President Obama, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Urban Institute, US Supreme Court