In a dramatic victory for President Barack Obama, the Supreme Court upheld the 2010 health care law Thursday, preserving Obama’s landmark legislative achievement.
The majority opinion was written by Chief Justice John Roberts, who held that the law was a valid exercise of Congress’s power to tax.
Roberts re-framed the debate over health care as a debate over increasing taxes. Congress, he said, is “increasing taxes” on those who choose to go uninsured.
Tom Goldstein of the SCOTUS blog breaks down the Supreme Court's ruling on health care. Also, when asked why Chief Justice John Roberts upheld the law, Goldstein said, "I think he believed it."
The 2010 law, the Affordable Care Act, requires non-exempted individuals to maintain a minimum level of health insurance or pay a tax penalty.
The essence of Roberts’s ruling was:
• “The Affordable Care Act is constitutional in part and unconstitutional in part,” 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.”
• But “it is reasonable to construe what Congress has done as increasing taxes on those who have a certain amount of income, but (who) choose to go without health insurance. Such legislation is within Congress’s power to tax.”
The law, Roberts wrote, “makes going without insurance just another thing the Government taxes, like buying gasoline or earning income. And if the mandate is in effect just a tax hike on certain taxpayers who do not have health insurance, it may be within Congress’s constitutional power to tax.”
A sharply divided Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the centerpiece of Obama's signature healthcare overhaul law that requires that most Americans get insurance by 2014 or pay a financial penalty.
He said “The question is not whether that is the most natural interpretation of the mandate, but only whether it is a ‘fairly possible’ one.”
He said the Supreme Court precedent is that “every reasonable construction” of a law passed by Congress “must be resorted to, in order to save a statute from unconstitutionality.”
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