The wait for the Supreme Court decision on the Affordable Care Act — what some call "Obamacare" — is over.
On Thursday, the last day of the 2011-2012 Supreme Court session, Chief Justice John Roberts said the individual mandate may be upheld as a tax under a narrow reading of the Constitution.
"The individual mandate cannot be upheld as an exercise of Congress's power under the Commerce Clause," Roberts wrote. "That Clause authorizes Congress to regulate interstate commerce, not to order individuals to engage in it. In this case, however, it is reasonable to construe what Congress has done as increasing taxes on those who have a certain amount of income, but choose to go without health insurance. Such legislation is within Congress's power to tax."
A circus-like atmosphere outside the court, with media and protesters milling about, awaited the decision to be handed down this morning.
"The Supreme Court says it stands," a commentator on CNN reported Thursday morning.
There were cheers and jeers depending on how protesters felt about the act.
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The Affordable Care Act became law March 23, 2010. More than a dozen states sued the federal government based on the argument that the "commerce clause" of the U.S. Constitution cannot be used by Congress to mandate that individuals purchase health insurance as part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
DC, however, has workd diligently to being implementing elements of the act.
“The District is proud to be able to begin a coordinated process of implementing the President’s health-care-reform bill into the District’s health infrastructure,” said Mayor Vincent Gray in a statement last May. “Even though the District has one of the highest percentages of insured residents in the country, there is still much work that needs to be done to make sure all residents have access to more affordable and reliable care."
The Affordable Care Act was designed to:
- Expand access to Medicaid
- Require most individuals to carry health insurance
- Prohibit insurers from denying health insurance coverage based on pre-existing conditions
- Create exchanges so individuals and families not eligible for government or employer-sponsored health insurance plans may purchase coverage at more affordable rates.
For a more detailed summary of the act, see the document (PDF) at right.
Political Implications of the Health Care Ruling
Today's ruling will likely become a political football, pundits say, in the run-up to the presidential election just four months away.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who will face President Obama in the presidential election on Nov. 6, has called for doing away with the law. Romney appeared Wednesday in Sterling, Va., and told supporters, "We already know it's bad policy that's got to go." (See video of Romney's campaign stop in Sterling here.)
The Supreme Court's website has audio from arguments in the Supreme Court Affordable Care Act case when it was heard by the court in March.
About 56 percent of Americans say they oppose the law, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released over the weekend.