The Supreme Court issued a ruling on President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act upholding many of the laws central provisions Thursday morning.
One of the most important rulings by the Court regarding the Constitutionality of the healthcare overhaul was describing the individual insurance requirement as a tax, rather than a forced purchase.
In the Court’s opinion, the decision is explained as follows:
Under the mandate, if an individual does not maintain health insurance, the only consequence is that he must make an additional payment to the IRS when he pays his taxes. See §5000A(b). That, according to the Government, means the mandate can be regarded as establishing a condition—not owning health insurance—that triggers a tax—the required payment to the IRS. Under that theory, the mandate is not a legal command to buy insurance. Rather, it makes going without insurance just another thing the Government taxes, like buying gasoline or earning income.
Because the mandate was found to be Constitutional, the Court did not decide what other parts of the statute were Constitutional, except for a provision that required States to comply with new eligibility requirements for Medicaid or risk losing their funding. The Court found that the Medicaid provision is Constitutional as long as States would lose only new funds for failure to comply with the new requirements.
The Affordable Care Act was declared Constitutional in a 5-4 decision. Liberal-leaning Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor were joined by Chief Justice John Roberts in support of the law. Justices Samuel Alito, Anthony Kennedy, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas dissented.