Health care ruling

Below is a quick summary from CNN of the main features of the health care ruling. I cannot vouch for its accuracy, though.

Question: Can the court decide the constitutionality of health care now, or does it have to wait a few years?
To answer, the court had to decide whether a penalty the law imposes on people who do not have health insurance amounts to a tax.
A previously obscure law mandated that the legality of a tax cannot be challenged until it is imposed, and the health care law doesn’t call for penalties until 2014.
The court’s answer: The court upheld the entire law.

Question: Is the requirement that people have health insurance – the so-called individual mandate – constitutional?
The court’s answer: Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that the commerce clause did not apply, but the mandate stands under the taxing clause.

Question: If the individual mandate is unconstitutional, can the rest of the law stand, or is the whole thing unconstitutional?
The court’s answer: The mandate is constitutional, rendering moot further questions on the rest of the law.

Question: Can the federal government force states to expand their share of Medicaid costs and administration?
The court’s answer: Yes, but the justices ruled that the federal government cannot remove existing Medicaid funding if the states choose not to participate in the new program.

Brace yourself for endless analysis by the pundits.


  1. cafink says

    It seems crazy to me that the federal government can require me to purchase a product from a private company, like this law apparently does. That strikes me as blatantly unconstitutional–at least against the spirit of the law, if not the letter; the “tax” justification seems like a loophole.

    I have no strong opinions on whether the net effect of this law in particular will be positive or negative, but this seems like a dangerous encroachment on personal liberty.

  2. Paul Hunter says

    Time for some serious waling, gnashing of teeth, and a few heart felt calls for impeaching five justices, Obama and any other associated party.

  3. slc1 says

    Re cafink @ #1

    But state governments are perfectly free to require that anyone who applies for a driver’s license must purchase liability insurance from a private company.

  4. cynner says

    It’s ok to say you don’t agree with or like the Affordable Healthcare Act, but 5 very learned persons have just said that it is not unconstitutional.

    What is your solution to the healthcare problem in the US? Or don’t you feel there is one.

  5. Heidi Nemeth says

    At least here in Ohio, you are not required to purchase auto liability insurance if you give proof of (a sufficient amount of money) stored in (an appropriate financial instrument). Of course, if you are wealthy enough to have such a reserve, you are also a “deep pocket” who will likely be aggressively pursued by any opposing insurance company, so most wealthy people buy insurance coverage. The loophole (you don’t have to buy insurance) is not much used.

  6. says

    Florida has that same loophole, and I bet quite a few others do as well. It’s another gift to the rich; an exception carved out to inscribe their special status for all time. Who else has tens of thousands of dollars just laying around to self-insure?

    I don’t know the statistics on how often this loophole is actually used. Many rich people probably do not bother with it, because it’s a hassle to manually deal with the paperwork if they get into, let alone cause, an accident somewhere.

  7. cafink says

    And 4 equally learned persons have likewise said that it’s not constitutional, which suggests that the matter is quite debatable. But that’s beside the point I was making, anyway, which is that even if this measure is *technically* constitutional, it seems like it’s only because it exploits a loophole.

    If the the constitution doesn’t allow the government to simply compel individuals to purchase products from private companies, then saying “we’ll tax you if you don’t” is just a way of getting *around* the existing law.

    But if the constitution *does* allow it, they should have just formulated the health care act that way, rather then trying to make an end-run around what those who drafted the act obviously saw as a potential constitutionality problem.

    I don’t have any particular suggestions for improving health care in the US, I was just making an observation about this ruling.

  8. cafink says

    To clarify my last point, I am not even necessarily saying that the Affordable Care Act or the individual mandate are bad ideas, or won’t work as a solution to the problem, only that if they *are* good, we should make sure our constitutions and laws are such that we can implement them straightforwardly, rather than having to try to find a way around existing laws, which is what this act seems to have done with the whole “it’s a tax” approach.

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