On June 28, 2012 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the individual health insurance mandate is constitutional, upholding the central provision of President Barack Obama’s signature Affordable Care Act. The long-awaited ruling will require Americans to buy health insurance or pay a penalty, the key part of the law.
The court ruled 5 to 4, wiith Chief Justice John Roberts siding with the majority, that the mandate is unconstitutional under the Constitution’s commerce clause, but it can stay as part of Congress’s power under a taxing clause.
Five justices 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.” They were Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan whom Roberts sided with making the monumental decision and writing the opinion.
In his opinion, Roberts wrote:
“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.”
He further wrote: “The Affordable Care Act’s requirement that certain individuals pay a financial penalty for not obtaining health insurance may reasonably be characterized as a tax,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the ruling. “Because the Constitution permits such a tax, it is not our role to forbid it, or to pass upon its wisdom or fairness.”
Soon after the ruling the president spoke from the White House. He said, “The highest court in the land has now spoken. We will continue to implement this law. And we will continue to improve on it where we can.”
The ruling comes as a surprise to what has been a heated debate since the president introduced the act in 2010.
The government argued that the health care law was passed partly because in 2009, 50 million people lacked health insurance and costs were spiraling out of reach for many Americans to afford. The law offered insurance reforms but mandated that almost every American buy health insurance by 2014.
Here are a few of the big implications of this law:
1.) If you are under 26, you can get health insurance from the plan your parents use.
2.) If you’re on Medicare, you can get free mammograms.
3.) If you have what’s called a pre-existing condition, you can get health insurance.
4.) Insurance companies can’t deny you coverage even if you get sick or make a mistake on your health insurance application.