Washington, D.C. –
In a ruling that is sure to continue debates across the country, the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld Obama’s health care law, with Chief Justice John Roberts providing the surprise swing vote in a 5-4 decision. The courts four liberal justices were joined by Roberts in upholding the heart of the law, allowing the government to impose a fine on those who do not purchase health insurance.
Protestors and supports of the law being decided by the Supreme Court were out in force in front of the Supreme Court chanting back and forth what they believe is right.
Following the ruling, President Obama spoke on the issue saying, “I didn’t do this because it was good politics. I did it because I believed it was good for the whole country.” He added, “They won’t be able to charge you more just because you’re a woman. They won’t be able to bill you into bankruptcy.”
However, recent polls show as many as 68% of the Americans do not support at least some part of the law, the percentage drops to 42% who reject the law outright in its entirety.
26 states (states with Republican governors) sued the federal government which led to today’s ruling. The states argued the federal government could not require Americans to buy something.
On the one hand, Roberts agreed with the law’s conservative critics who said Congress does not have the power to mandate the purchase of a private product such as health insurance.
But the Affordable Care Act does not impose a true legal mandate on Americans, he said. It only requires those who do not have health insurance by 2014 to pay a tax penalty.
Most of the debate on the law, including before the court in March, focused on whether the mandate to have insurance was constitutional under Congress’ power to regulate interstate commerce. But the government in its legal briefs also argued that the Constitution’s tax power created an “independent” basis for upholding the law.
Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, the usual swing vote, spoke for the conservative dissenters and said the entire law should have been struck down.
The ruling was not a total victory for the Obama administration.
Roberts said the law’s required expansion of Medicaid violates states’ rights.
“The states are given no choice in this case. They must either accept a basic change like Medicaid or risk losing all Medicaid funding,” he wrote. Ultimately he sided with the administration’s expansion of Medicaid if the federal government does not force states to join the new program or lose all funding.
In response to the ruling, Republicans quickly indicated they would try to use the decision to rally their supporters against what they call “Obamacare,” arguing that the ruling characterized the penalty against people who refuse to get insurance as a tax.
Other dissenters said in a joint statement that the law “exceeds federal power both in mandating the purchase of health insurance and in denying non-consenting states all Medicaid funding.”
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