Thursday, June 28, 2012

SCOTUS Upholds ACA as Constitutional

Today is the day anticipated by many: the Supreme Court has issued its opinion on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act ("Obamacare").  The SCOTUSblog live feed saw well over 500,000 readers at the time the decision was issued.

Without further ado, the opinion is here.

Here is a quote from Amy Howe at SCOTUSblog, via the liveblog:
In Plain English: The Affordable Care Act, including its individual mandate that virtually all Americans buy health insurance, is constitutional. There were not five votes to uphold it on the ground that Congress could use its power to regulate commerce between the states to require everyone to buy health insurance. However, five Justices agreed that the penalty that someone must pay if he refuses to buy insurance is a kind of tax that Congress can impose using its taxing power. That is all that matters. Because the mandate survives, the Court did not need to decide what other parts of the statute were constitutional, except for a provision that required states to comply with new eligibility requirements for Medicaid or risk losing their funding. On that question, the Court held that the provision is constitutional as long as states would only lose new funds if they didn't comply with the new requirements, rather than all of their funding. WOSU is current discussing the decision and its implication(s) here.

Here is the first SCOTUSblog post following the decision:
Salvaging the idea that Congress did have the power to try to expand health care to virtually all Americans, the Supreme Court on Monday upheld the constitutionality of the crucial – and most controversial — feature of the Affordable Care Act.   By a vote of 5-4, however, the Court did not sustain it as a command for Americans to buy insurance, but as a tax if they don’t.  That is the way Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., was willing to vote for it, and his view prevailed.  The other Justices split 4-4, with four wanting to uphold it as a mandate, and four opposed to it in any form.

And here is the first SCOTUSblog post on the Medicaid portion of the decision:
The Court’s decision on the constitutionality of the Medicaid expansion is divided and complicated.  The bottom line is that: (1) Congress acted constitutionally in offering states funds to expand coverage to millions of new individuals; (2) So states can agree to expand coverage in exchange for those new funds; (3) If the state accepts the expansion funds, it must obey by the new rules and expand coverage; (4) but a state can refuse to participate in the expansion without losing all of its Medicaid funds; instead the state will have the option of continue the its current, unexpanded plan as is.
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Exciting as this decision is, it is not the only one issued by the Court today.  The Court also dismissed the case of First American Financial v. Edwards and upheld the decision of the 9th Circuit in the case of United States v. Alvarez, finding the "Stolen Valor Act" unconstitutional under the 1st Amendment.

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Several popular law blogs have already posted on the health care decision:

The Volokh Conspiracy

WSJ Law Blog