The Supreme Court ruled Thursday the individual mandate provision of President Barack Obama's 2010 Affordable Care Act (ACA) is constitutional.
In the landmark ruling, the court upheld nearly all of the healthcare reform law, only limiting the federal government's ability to terminate states' Medicaid funds.
Chief Justice John Roberts joined the liberal members of the court to uphold the individual mandate in a 5-4 vote. The court said the individual mandate would survive as a tax but had a limited reading of the Medicaid provision.
"The bottom line: the entire ACA is upheld, with the exception that the federal government's power to terminate states' Medicaid funds is narrowly read," SCOTUS Blog reported.
The court was set to rule on three questions:
Question 1: Can the individual mandate be ruled on at this time or does it qualify as an unpaid tax under the Anti-Injunction Act of 1867? This would have allowed the court to push back the ruling on the mandate until 2015, after the tax, or fine, on those without health care kicks in.
Ruling: The court ruled the mandate would not be counted as an unpaid tax and could be ruled on immediately.
Question 2: Is the mandate constitutional? If not, can other aspects of the law be upheld?
Ruling: The court ruled the mandate is constitutional.
Question 3: Is the expansion of Medicaid constitutional?
Ruling: The court ruled Congress can provide further funds through ACA to states and that states accepting the funds must comply with conditions of their use. But the Congress cannot penalize states that choose to not use the funds by taking away their existing Medicaid money.
"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," Roberts wrote for the majority.
He added, "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."
The court's decision is likely to be a major factor in this year's presidential election. The healthcare reform law, which was the cornerstone of the president's domestic agenda, can now be officially claimed as a victory for the administration.
The president is scheduled to make an announcement on the ruling shortly. Congressional leaders will respond afterward.
by RTT Staff Writer
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