In a surprising and historic decision, the Supreme Court has voted to uphold the individual mandate component of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, more commonly called "Obamacare."
The Supreme Court reached its decision on Thursday about the constitutionality of the individual mandate provision in the Affordable Care Act, more commonly referred to as “Obamacare.” The controlling opinion in the decision in National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius was written by Chief Justice John Roberts, and supported by justices Ruth bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, the Court’s four democratic appointees.
The decision has been met with some surprise following the perceived hostility of the majority of the justices during the oral arguments held in March. However, the five justices found that the mandate, requiring nearly all Americans to obtain minimum health insurance coverage or pay a penalty, comes under Congress’ constitutional power to “lay and collect taxes.”
“In doing so, they’ve reaffirmed a federal principle, that here in America, the wealthiest nation on Earth, no illness or accident should lead to any family’s financial ruin,” President Obama said following the announcement of the decision.
Anticipating the “who won, who lost” political debate to follow the ruling, President Obama stated, “Whatever the politics, today’s decision was a victory for people all over this country whose lives with be more secure because of this law and the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold it.
Talking about exactly what this law means for the individual American, Obama pointed out that the 250 million Americans who already have health insurance will keep their current insurance plans. The law keeps insurance companies from imposing lifetime limits on the care a customer is eligible to receive, and from discriminating against children with preexisting conditions. Premiums will be kept at a fixed price, and insurers are required to provide free preventive screenings such as check ups and mammograms.
Young Americans under the age of 26 will be able to stay on their parents insurance plans -- a provision that has already helped 6 million Americans. Seniors will receive a discount on their prescription drugs. The President called all of these provisions “common sense protections for middle class families.”
For Americans currently without health insurance, the law provides a blueprint for the states to create affordable health care options which will be available for state residents by 2014. New York State has already taken steps to create its own health care exchange that will prevent insurers from discriminating against anyone with a preexisting condition.
According to Roberts, the dissenting judges found that the law should be struck down because, while Congress holds the right to lay and collect taxes, the phrasing of the law did not use those labels.
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