Supreme Court Upholds Obama Healthcare Law

The decision is heralded as a victory for the Obama administration, but not all provisions are allowed.

Supporters and protestors gathered in front of the Supreme Court today as it ruled mostly in favor of the Affordable Care Act. (Photo: Alex Wong/ Getty Images)

Jun 28, 2012
Jeannine Stein, a California native, wrote about health for the Los Angeles Times. In her pursuit of a healthy lifestyle she has taken countless fitness classes, hiked in Nepal and got in a boxing ring.

The Supreme Court ruled today to uphold the Obama administration’s Affordable Care Act, a landmark decision being touted as a major victory for the president.

The centerpiece of the act, the individual mandate requiring citizens to buy health insurance or pay a fine, was allowed. While the administration argued that the mandate was constitutional under the Commerce Clause, the court didn’t agree. However, it ruled that it is constitutional to issue tax penalties to those who don’t purchase insurance.

In a televised speech soon after the ruling was announced, CNN reported President Obama said, “I did it because I believed it was good for the American people.” He called the decision “a victory for people all over this country whose lives will be more secure because of this law.

 “They’ve reaffirmed a fundamental principle,” he added, “that here in America, the wealthiest nation on Earth, no illness or accident should lead to any family’s financial ruin.”

In writing the opinion for the majority in the 5 to 4 ruling, Chief Justice John Roberts 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. Because the Constitution permits such a tax, it is not our role to forbid it, or to pass upon its wisdom or fairness.”

But the court’s ruling on the healthcare law, due to take effect in 2014, was not a clean sweep for the administration.

The Los Angeles Times reports that Chief Justice John Roberts, who wrote the opinion for the majority, said that the provision for Medicaid expansion may be unconstitutional, as it goes against states’ rights.

“A State that opts out of the Affordable Care Act’s expansion in health care coverage thus stands to lose not merely ‘a relatively small percentage’ of its existing Medicaid funding, but all of it,” Roberts said.

MSNBC called that ruling a “major victory for the states who challenged the law,” adding that the provision “is projected to add nearly 30 million more people to the insurance program for low-income Americans—but the court’s decision left states free to opt out of the expansion if they choose.”

Voting along with Roberts in favor of the health care law were justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. Roberts’ vote to support the law came as a surprise to some, since the justice is considered a conservative.

Dissenting were justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito Jr.

Republicans, including presidential nominee Mitt Romney, say they'll keep fighting against the law, and presidential nominee Mitt Romney has vowed to repeal it if elected in November.

Some of the law’s provisions, such as allowing parents to keep children on their health insurance plan up to age 26, have already gone into effect.

Reactions to the ruling from those in the small business community has been mixed, while some in the medical community have been positive.

The American Academy of Pediatrics issued a statement in support of the law: “Today, the Supreme Court upheld a law that invests in children’s health from the ground up,” said AAP president Dr. Robert W. Block. “The Academy endorsed the Affordable Care Act because it addresses the same … goals that are entrenched in our mission and in our 82 years of child health advocacy.”

The American Medical Assn. also gave the thumbs-up to the decision: “The American Medical Association has long supported health insurance coverage for all, and we are pleased that this decision means millions of Americans can look forward to the coverage they need to get healthy and stay healthy,” said AMA president Dr. Jeremy Lazarus.

More on the healthcare ruling:

The New York Times looks at the ruling in depth.

CNN reports on what the Supreme Court’s decision means for individuals.

CBS News takes the pulse of the nation on the law.

SCOTUSblog goes lives on today’s ruling.

The Christian Science Monitor looks at how the decision will affect families.

What do you think of today’s Supreme Court Decision? Let us know in the comments.

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