Supreme Court Upholds Mandatory Health Care Law
WASHINGTON DC -
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled President Obama's health care overhaul constitutional, including the contested individual mandate.
Chief Justice John Roberts revealed the high court's verdict on the Affordable Care Act, known colloquially as Obamacare, just after 10 am Thursday.
Four major issues were ruled upon, the most important of which being the law's centerpiece requirement that most people have health insurance or pay a penalty is constitutional. The justices also weighed whether other parts or indeed the entire 2010 law should fall if they strike down the insurance requirement.
Apart from the insurance mandate, the court also considered the validity of the health care law's significant expansion of Medicaid, the joint federal-state health care program for the poor.
The court devoted more than six hours to arguments about these issues over three days in late March. The justices met March 30 to take a vote on the case and sort out who would take the lead in writing the opinions.
The 26 states and the small business group challenging the law seemed to have the better of the courtroom arguments in March. Conservative justices peppered Solicitor General Donald Verrilli Jr. with hostile questions about both the insurance requirement and the Medicaid expansion.
The case began almost as soon as Mr. Obama signed the law on March 23, 2010. Even before the day was out, Florida and 12 states filed the lawsuit that ended up at the Supreme Court. Another 13 states later joined in later.
The heart of the challenge was the claim that Congress could not force people to buy a product – health insurance.
The administration advanced several arguments in defense of Congress' authority to require health insurance, including that it falls under the power to regulate interstate commerce.
The government also argued that the insurance requirement was necessary to make effective two other undoubtedly constitutional provisions: the requirements that insurers accept people regardless of existing health problems and limit what they charge older, sicker people.
The administration also said that even if the court rejected the first two arguments, the insurance requirement and penalty are constitutional as an exercise of Congress' power to enact taxes. The penalty assessed for not buying insurance functions like a tax, the government said.