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Thursday, June 28, 2012
Supreme Court Health Care Decision: Individual Mandate Survives
WASHINGTON -- The individual health insurance mandate is constitutional, the Supreme Court ruled Thursday, upholding the central provision of President Barack Obama's signature Affordable Care Act.
The 5-4 majority opinion, written by Chief Justice John Roberts, upheld the mandate as a tax, although concluded it was not valid as an exercise of Congress' commerce clause power. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan joined in the majority.
The decision in Florida v. Department of Health and Human Services comes as something of a surprise after the generally hostile reception the law received during the six hours of oral arguments held over three days in March. But by siding with the court's four Democratic appointees, Chief Justice Roberts avoided the delegitimizing taint of politics that surrounds a party-line vote while passing Obamacare's fate back to the elected branches. GOP candidates and incumbents will surely spend the rest of the 2012 campaign season running against the Supreme Court and for repeal of the law.
The decision looks like a political compromise among the justices, letting the mandate stand without wading into the contentious question of whether the provision is a valid exercise of Congress' power to regulate interstate commerce. The majority concluded that the mandate, which requires virtually all Americans to obtain minimum health insurance coverage or pay a penalty, falls within Congress' power under the Constitution to "lay and collect taxes."