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Supreme Court Upholds Health Care Law

Washington, DC
Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Supreme Court announced, Thursday, that the entire Affordable Care Act is upheld. They did issue some limits on the Medicaid portion of the bill. Chief Justice John Roberts appears to be the crucial fifth vote. This is the final case of the 2011 term.

The Court upheld the individual mandate, deeming it a tax. From the decision: "Our precedent demonstrates that Congress had the power to impose the 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."

Regarding the Medicaid portion of the act, the opinion held the expansion of the low-income health insurance constitutional, but said that the federal government couldn't withhold funds for the program from states that don't comply with federal provisions.

Chief Justice Roberts wrote in his opinion, "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."

Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) speaking on the Senate floor after the opinion was read, said "our Supreme Court has spoken, the matter is settled."

In a written statement, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) said the House would schedule a vote for repeal the week of July 9th, "clearing the way for patient-centered reforms that lower costs and increase choice." He later said it would likely be on Wednesday, July 11.

Republican Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney spoke to reporters from Washington, D.C., vowing to "repeal and replace" the law.  He laid out some of the provisions that he would seek to put into a replacement bill, including lowering costs for everyone and leaving the pre-existing condition clause in place.

President Obama spoke from the White House in what was billed as an "address to the nation," saying "whatever the politics, today's decision was a victory for people all over this country." He highlighted the provisions of the act that have already taken affect and the benefits they provide. He spoke about the health insurance marketplaces that the act will create, and noted that insurance companies can no longer discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions.

In March, the U.S. Supreme Court held three days of oral arguments on the multi-state lawsuit challenging the health care law. On March 26, 27 and 28 the Court Justices sat for a combined six hours to determine the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The case is officially known as Florida v. Department of Health & Human Services.

The court heard arguments on four issues related to the case: whether the court has jurisdiction over a tax law that has yet to take effect, whether the individual mandate is constitutional, whether the court can strike down only part of the law without striking down the law in its entirety, and whether the law's extension of Medicaid is constitutional.

Because the court upheld the individual mandate, they did not need to address severability.

In addition to the health care ruling, decisions on the following two cases are being handed down: 

In U.S. v. Alvarez, which deals with a federal law that criminalizes false statements about military honors, the law was struck down as unconstitutional.

In First American Financial Corporation v. Edwards, a real estate case that asks whether a buyer has the right to sue if he was steered toward a certain title company due to a kickback, the case was dismissed.

Updated: Friday, June 29, 2012 at 2:34pm (ET)

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