SCOTUS Healthcare Ruling: Affordable Care Act Upheld

By Eric Clabaugh
By Daniela Salvador

June 28, 2012 Updated Jun 28, 2012 at 6:21 PM EDT

WASHINGTON D.C. (Indiana’s NewsCenter) - The U.S. Supreme Court has released its highly anticipated ruling on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, President Obama's sweeping health care reform mandate. The Supreme Court has upheld the health care law.

The Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision Thursday that the Affordable Care Act is constitutional as long as Congress enforces the law as a tax. Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the liberal justices and wrote for the majority. The writing said that Americans can't be forced to buy health insurance, but they can be penalized or taxed for choosing not to.

"Today's decision was a victory for people all over this country whose lives will be more secure because of this law," Obama said.

The Supreme Court did rule that the law was unconstitutional under the Commerce Clause, but that doesn't matter because there were five votes for the mandate to be constitutional under the taxing power. That means the entire mandate is upheld by the courts.

In layman's terms, the most controversial part of the bill, the individual mandate that Americans buy health insurance, is constitutional. The Justices ruled that a penalty enforced on Americans who fail to buy insurance is constitutional because it is considered a tax that Congress has the authority to impose. Because the mandate was upheld, the Justices did not vote on other parts of the statute and their constitutionality, except for a provision requiring states to comply with new eligibility requirements for Medicaid. The Court ruled that if states choose not to accept additional funds to expand their Medicaid offered to residents, they can not be penalized for it, something that was originally part of the bill.

The comprehensive health care reform law was enacted nearly two years ago and immediately there was a lot of kick back. Insurance companies were among the first groups to express concerns with how the new law would work, how it would be enforced and problems it could potentially cause within their industry, especially for smaller companies. Lawmakers were also quick to challenge the constitutionality of President Obama's health care mandate, saying the federal government did not have the authority to force constituents to have insurance. Attorney Generals from 26 states jumped on board, fighting the federal government by joining forces in a lawsuit, seeking a nullification of the government mandate.

A new ABC News-Washington Post poll found that only one-third of Americans have a favorable opinion on the health care reform law. A poll from March found that two-thirds of Americans want the Supreme Court to strike down either the entire law or the individual mandate.

Republicans said the ruling sets the stakes for November's election, and the only way to get rid of Obamacare now is to vote the president out of office.

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