Jun 28 2012
This morning, the Supreme Court issued its long-awaited decision in the cases challenging the validity of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA).
Chief Justice Roberts’ majority opinion (5-4) upholds the ACA, including the minimum insurance requirement (the “mandate”). The court concluded: “Our precedent demonstrates that Congress had the power to impose the exaction in Section 5000A under the taxing power, and that Section 5000A need not be read to do more than impose a tax. This is sufficient to sustain it.” Thus, the mandate is upheld as a tax, not as an exercise of the Commerce power or under the Necessary and Proper clause.
Live blogging from the Court, SCOTUSblog’s Amy Howe provided this “plain English” summary of the ruling:
The Affordable Care Act, including its individual mandate that virtually all Americans buy health insurance, is constitutional. There were not five votes to uphold it on the ground that Congress could use its power to regulate commerce between the states to require everyone to buy health insurance. However, five Justices agreed that the penalty that someone must pay if he refuses to buy insurance is a kind of tax that Congress can impose using its taxing power. That is all that matters. Because the mandate survives, the Court did not need to 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. On that question, the Court held that the provision is constitutional as long as states would only lose new funds if they didn’t comply with the new requirements, rather than all of their funding.
In a concurring opinion (joined by Justices Breyer, Kagan and Sotomayor), Justice Ginsburg wrote that the mandate should be upheld under the Commerce power, but this opinion is not controlling on the issue. The four dissenters (Kennedy, Scalia, Thomas and Alito) would have struck down the ACA in its entirety.
The Congressional web site, THOMAS, provides much information on the ACA legislation here.
Prior to the decision, SCOTUSblog’s Lyle Denniston provided advice on how to read the opinion here.
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