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Supreme Court largely upholds controversial health care law

Author: Rebecca Rak

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was upheld for the most part in a Supreme Court decision on June 28, 2012. Congress passed the Act into law in early 2010. The PPACA was passed in order to increase the number of Americans covered by medical insurance, and also to decrease health care costs. The law came under much scrutiny after politicians challenged the validity of two main provisions. The individual mandate came under the most fire, as it required individuals to purchase a minimum amount of health care coverage, otherwise the persons would be subject to fines. The other mandate, the Medicaid expansion, also became controversial as it allowed the federal government to deny states Medicaid funding based on if those states insured all persons under a certain income level.

The PPACA was largely upheld, with a close vote of 5-4. The Court ruled that Congress did have the power to enforce taxes on individuals based on certain stipulations, such as not having health insurance if your income is above a certain level. The Court did not however,  uphold the withholding of funding from states based on their coverage rates.

The majority opinion, written by Chief Justice John Roberts, concluded:

"The Affordable Care Act is constitutional in part and unconstitutional in part. 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.

As for the Medicaid expansion, that portion of the Affordable Care Act violates the Constitution by threatening existing Medicaid funding. Congress has no authority to order the States to regulate according to its instructions. Congress may offer the States grants and require the States to comply with accompanying conditions, but the States must have a genuine choice whether to accept the offer.

The Federal Government does not have the power to order people to buy health insurance. Section 5000A [of the Internal Revenue Code] would therefore be unconstitutional if read as a command. The Federal Government does have the power to impose a tax on those without health insurance. Section 5000A is therefore constitutional, because it can reasonably be read as a tax. The Court cited an estimate that as many as four million people will choose to pay the tax rather than buy insurance."

Though the Court has ruled "Obamacare" unconstitutional, many are still dismayed at it's existence. Presidential Republican hopefull Mitt Romney said, "I disagree with the Supreme Court's decision, and I agree with the dissent. What the Court did not do on it's last day in session, I will do in my first day if elected President of the United States. And that is, I will act to repeal Obamacare."

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President Obama applauded the ruling, saying, "Today, I'm as confident as ever that when we look back five years from now, or 10 years from now, or 20 years from now, we'll be better off because we had the courage to pass this law and keep moving forward."

DMU Timestamp: June 22, 2012 12:37

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