Friday, June 29, 2012

Supreme Court Holds Health Care Law Constitutional

Yesterday marked the conclusion, not only to the Supreme Court’s 2011-2012 term, but to the heated debate regarding the Constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, a/k/a “Obamacare”.  In deciding the case of National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius, Chief Justice John Roberts joined the Supreme Court's four liberals to uphold President Barack Obama's health plan’s individual mandate requiring citizens to carry insurance or pay a penalty.  By a 5-4 vote, the court held that the mandate was valid under Congress' constitutional authority "to lay and collect Taxes" to provide for "the general Welfare of the United States."  Writing for the majority, Chief Justice Roberts stated that the penalty for failing to carry insurance possesses "the essential feature of any tax," producing revenue for the government.

The Court held one part of the law unconstitutional, deciding that the act’s expansion of the federal-state Medicaid program threatened states' existing funding.  The Court ruled that the federal government cannot put sanctions on states' existing Medicaid funding if the states decline to go along with the Medicaid expansion.

The four justices voting against the Constitutionality of the health care plan, Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, stated in their dissent that they would have struck down the entire law, arguing that neither the government's commerce nor taxing power justified the mandate.  They opined that by reinterpreting the insurance mandate and changing the Medicaid provision, the majority engaged in “vast judicial overreaching" and decided “to save a statute Congress did not write.”