The United States Supreme Court has ruled this morning that Obama’s Affordable Care Act is constitutional. Chief Justice John Roberts authored the opinion which was a 5-4 vote. Justices Roberts, Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan joined in the decision. The primary focus of the constitutional challenge to the ACA (Affordable Care Act) was whether the individual mandate was constitutional. The “individual mandate” required a person to buy health insurance, or pay $695.00 or 2.5% of their income, whichever is greater.
The individual mandate was argued to be constitutional as a form of tax, and as a power of Congress pursuant to the provisions of the commerce clause. The majority opinion determined that the individual mandate was constitutional as a result of Congress’ power to “lay and collect taxes.” However Justice Roberts did not agree that the Commerce Clause gave Congress the authority to require the purchase of insurance. He explained that the Commerce Clause authorizes congress to “regulate interstate commerce, not to order individuals to engage in it.” Justice Ginsburg, joined by Breyer, Sotomayor and Kagan, wrote a separate opinion stating that they would have upheld the law regardless of whether it was deemed to be a tax or under the provisions of the Commerce Clause.
A portion of the ACA was determined to be unconstitutional. Under the provisions of the Affordable Care Act, as enacted by Congress, Medicaid funding for states was threatened if any State chose to limit Medicaid funding to those benefits available to their citizens before the ACA was enacted. The Court explained that:
“As for the Medicaid expansion, that portion of the Affordable Care Act violates the Constitution by threatening existing Medicaid funding,” said the court. “Congress has no authority to order the States to regulate according to its instructions. Congress may offer the States grants and require the States to comply with accompanying conditions, but the States must have a genuine choice whether to accept the offer. The States are given no such choice in this case: They must either accept a basic change in the nature of Medicaid, or risk losing all Medicaid funding. The remedy for that constitutional violation is to preclude the Federal Government from imposing such a sanction. That remedy does not require striking down other portions of the Affordable Care Act.”
In lay terms the new act included a provision that required states to comply with new eligibility requirements for Medicaid or risk losing their federal funding. The Court determine that this specific provision was unconstitutional. The Court held that the provision is constitutional only so long as a state would lose only NEW funding if they didn’t comply with the new requirements. Their old Medicaid funding would remain in tact.
By way of caveat, please understand I have not read the actual opinion of the Court. The majority opinion is reported to be 59 pages, Justice Ginsburg’s concurring opinion is 61 pages, and the four dissenting opinions are 65 pages. Thus the opinion may set a record for one of the longest opinions of the Supreme Court at 185 pages.
A couple of observations result from this decision:
1. There was no mention of “Death Panels” in the majority opinion or the dissenting opinions. It was not an issue. Given the fact that Sarah Palin only knows about Roe v. Wade, it is not surprising that Palin didn’t understand what the issues were that were being considered by the Supreme Court in this case. Remember Palin’s comments to Katie Couric when she shared her vast knowledge about Constitutional law:
It was that interview when she proclaimed that she was an advocate for states rights, by declaring that she was a “federalist.” Federalism is defined as the
“ a union of states under a central government distinct from that of the separate states, who retain certain individual powers under the central government.”
And “… especially its emphasis during the early years of the U.S. on a strong central government”. — federalist, n., adj. — federalistic, adj.
Palin is not only clueless about the Affordable Healthcare Act, but also constitutional law in general.
2. The power of the President to appoint Supreme Court Justices is perhaps his most important power. Justices Kagan and Sotomayor were appointed by Obama. We can predict that this decision would have been totally different with more conservative Justices on the Court. The Presidential election of 2012, and every presidential election, is critical to the American way of life.
Here is President Obama talking about the Supreme Court ruling and what it means for America.