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Breaking: Affordable Care Act Upheld Under Taxing Powers



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UPDATED: The full decision is here.

From Chief Justice Roberts’ majority opinion, via SCOTUSBlog:

“Our precedent demonstrates that Congress had the power to impose the [individual mandate] exaction in Section 5000A under the taxing power, and that Section 5000A need not be read to do more than impose a tax. This is sufficient to sustain it.”

It appears as if Roberts voted with the liberals, while Justice Anthony Kennedy voted with the conservatives. More details as they come.

It looks as though a different coalition of justices voted to impose limits on the Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act. From the opinion (which we still don’t have in full):

“Nothing in our opinion precludes Congress from offering funds under the ACA to expand the availability of health care, and requiring that states accepting such funds comply with the conditions on their use. What Congress is not free to do is to penalize States that choose not to participate in that new program by taking away their existing Medicaid funding.”

Here’s President Obama saying that the individual mandate is definitively not a tax in 2009:

STEPHANOPOULOS:  You were against the individual mandate…

OBAMA:  Yes.

STEPHANOPOULOS:  …during the campaign.  Under this mandate, the government is forcing people to spend money, fining you if you don’t. How is that not a tax?

OBAMA:  Well, hold on a second, George. Here — here’s what’s happening.  You and I are both paying $900, on average — our families — in higher premiums because of uncompensated care.  Now what I’ve said is that if you can’t afford health insurance, you certainly shouldn’t be punished for that.  That’s just piling on. If, on the other hand, we’re giving tax credits, we’ve set up an exchange, you are now part of a big pool, we’ve driven down the costs, we’ve done everything we can and you actually can afford health insurance, but you’ve just decided, you know what, I want to take my chances.  And then you get hit by a bus and you and I have to pay for the emergency room care, that’s…

STEPHANOPOULOS:  That may be, but it’s still a tax increase.

OBAMA:  No.  That’s not true, George.  The — for us to say that you’ve got to take a responsibility to get health insurance is absolutely not a tax increase.  What it’s saying is, is that we’re not going to have other people carrying your burdens for you anymore than the fact that right now everybody in America, just about, has to get auto insurance. Nobody considers that a tax increase. People say to themselves, that is a fair way to make sure that if you hit my car, that I’m not covering all the costs.

STEPHANOPOULOS:  But it may be fair, it may be good public policy…

OBAMA:  No, but — but, George, you — you can’t just make up that language and decide that that’s called a tax increase.  Any…

And here’s how Associate Justice Kennedy, who sided with Justices Alito, Scalia, and Thomas, put it his dissent: “In our view, the entire Act before us is invalid in its entirety.” You read that correctly. Justice Kennedy would have invalidated the entire law. Chief Justice Roberts saved it.



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