The Supreme Court Rules on the Affordable Care Act
In a 5 to 4 ruling with Chief Justice Roberts being the deciding vote, most of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was upheld. The court ruled that the act's individual mandate was constitutional under congressional tax powers. The ruling largely ignores the argument that the individual mandate is a violation of the commerce clause.
The primary argument for opponents of the ACA focused on the individual mandate to purchase health insurance. They held that congress had overstepped its authority by requiring instead of regulating commerce. Opponents argued that the purchase of health insurance was a personal choice.
Proponents of the ACA pointed to the right of congress to levy taxes and enforce commerce. Examples of which varied from the individual income tax to the EPA.
However, It did curtail a provision to sanction states that did not expand their Medicaid programs to include the poor under the ACA. In effect creating a toothless mandate since the federal government is prohibited from taking punitive measures against states who refuse to comply.
With this ruling, individuals without medical coverage, (beginning in 2014) can be assessed a tax that begins at $95 and increases every year until 2016 where a formula indexed to inflation is used.
What isn't addressed in the court's ruling were core structural issues with the ACA. Specifically, the Medicaid expansion provisions of the act now effectively void and the vague language concerning required coverage features.
Core to the argument of opponents of the ACA is the government requirement of an individual to be compelled to engage in commerce with a private commercial entity. Today's ruling ignores that argument in favor of the stronger argument of congress' right to tax. The language of the ACA mandate does treat the penalty as a tax and not a transaction.Continued on the next page