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Relevant US Supreme Court arguments on Obamacare's judgement and other related issues

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Washington, July 4 (DP.net).─ In 2010, Congress enacted the Patient Protection and Affordable CareAct in order to increase the number of Americans covered by health insurance and decrease the cost of health care. One key provision is the individual mandate, which requires most Americans to maintain "minimum essential" health insurance coverage. (26 U. S. C. §5000A).

For individuals who are not exempt, and who do not receive health insurance through an employer or government program, the means of satisfying the requirement is to purchase insurance from a private company.

US Supreme Court

On June 28, 2012, Chief Justice Roberts announced the judgement of the Court and delivered the opinion of the Court on these terms:

"Today we resolve constitutional challenges to two provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010: the individual mandate, which requires individuals to purchase a health insurance policy providing a minimum level of coverage; and the Medicaid expansion, which gives funds to the States on the condition that they provide specified health care to all citizens whose income falls below a certain threshold. We do not consider whether the Act embodies sound policies. That judgment is entrusted to the Nation's elected leaders. We ask only whether Congress has the power under the Constitution to enactthe challenged provisions."

 

You may read the full text of the Supreme Court Judgement HERE (PDF format).

 

The American Action Forum (AAF), says, because states now know they can cut their Medicaid rolls back to the federally designated minimums, that tax payers will have to bear the brunt of government costs to apply this law. «It seems safe to say that the [health law] will leave the taxpayer on the hook for "an additional $500 billion" or so in federal costs over the first 10 years.».

Last March, the Congressional Budget Office released an official government adjustment for the cost of "Obamacare" over a decade from $940 billion to $1.76 trillion. Now, according to AAF, we can throw another $500 billion or so on to that total because this is only a preliminary estimate.

There are other introductory considerations in the US Supreme Court judgement quite relevant to this issue:

"Beginning in 2014, those who do not comply with the mandate must make a "[s]hared responsibility payment" to the Federal Government. §5000A(b)(1). The Act provides that this "penalty"will be paid to the Internal Revenue Service with an individual's taxes, and "shall be assessed and collected in the same manner" as tax penalties. §§5000A(c), (g)(1).

Another key provision of the Act is the Medicaid expansion. The current Medicaid program offers federal funding to States to assist pregnant women, children, needy families, the blind, the elderly, and the disabled in obtaining medical care. 42 U. S. C. §1396d(a). The Affordable Care Act expands the scope of the Medicaid program andincreases the number of individuals the States must cover. For example, the Act requires state programs to provide Medicaid coverage by 2014 to adults with incomes up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level, whereas many States now cover adults with children onlyif their income is considerably lower, and do not cover childless adults at all. §1396a(a)(10)(A)(i)(VIII). The Act increases federal funding tocover the States' costs in expanding Medicaid coverage. §1396d(y)(1).But if a State does not comply with the Act's new coverage requirements, it may lose not only the federal funding for those requirements, but all of its federal Medicaid funds. §1396c.

Twenty-six States, several individuals, and the National Federation of Independent Business brought suit in Federal District Court,challenging the constitutionality of the individual mandate and theMedicaid expansion. The Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit upheld the Medicaid expansion as a valid exercise of Congress's spending power, but concluded that Congress lacked authority to enact the individual mandate. Finding the mandate severable from theAct's other provisions, the Eleventh Circuit left the rest of the Act intact.

1. CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS delivered the opinion of the Court with respect to Part II, concluding that the Anti-Injunction Act does notbar this suit.

The Anti-Injunction Act provides that "no suit for the purpose of restraining the assessment or collection of any tax shall be maintained in any court by any person," 26 U. S. C. §7421(a), so that thosesubject to a tax must first pay it and then sue for a refund. The present challenge seeks to restrain the collection of the shared responsibility payment from those who do not comply with the individualmandate. But Congress did not intend the payment to be treated asa "tax" for purposes of the Anti-Injunction Act. The Affordable Care Act describes the payment as a "penalty," not a "tax." That label cannot control whether the payment is a tax for purposes of the Constitution, but it does determine the application of the Anti-Injunction Act. The Anti-Injunction Act therefore does not bar this suit.

2. CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS concluded in Part III–A that the individual mandate is not a valid exercise of Congress's power under the Commerce Clause and the Necessary and Proper Clause.

(a) The Constitution grants Congress the power to "regulate Commerce." Art. I, §8, cl. 3 (emphasis added). The power to regulatecommerce presupposes the existence of commercial activity to be regulated. This Court's precedent reflects this understanding: As expansive as this Court's cases construing the scope of the commerce power have been, they uniformly describe the power as reaching "activity." E.g., United States v. Lopez, 514 U. S. 549, 560. The individual mandate, however, does not regulate existing commercial activity. It instead compels individuals to become active in commerce bypurchasing a product, on the ground that their failure to do so affectsinterstate commerce.

Construing the Commerce Clause to permit Congress to regulate individuals precisely because they are doing nothing would open a new and potentially vast domain to congressional authority. Congress already possesses expansive power to regulate what people do. Upholding the Affordable Care Act under the Commerce Clausewould give Congress the same license to regulate what people do notdo. The Framers knew the difference between doing something and doing nothing. They gave Congress the power to regulate commerce, not to compel it. Ignoring that distinction would undermine the principle that the Federal Government is a government of limited andenumerated powers. The individual mandate thus cannot be sustained under Congress's power to "regulate Commerce.

(b) Nor can the individual mandate be sustained under the Necessary and Proper Clause as an integral part of the Affordable CareAct's other reforms. Each of this Court's prior cases upholding lawsunder that Clause involved exercises of authority derivative of, andin service to, a granted power. E.g., United States v. Comstock, 560

U.S. ___. The individual mandate, by contrast, vests Congress withthe extraordinary ability to create the necessary predicate to the exercise of an enumerated power and draw within its regulatory scope those who would otherwise be outside of it. Even if the individual mandate is "necessary" to the Affordable Care Act's other reforms, such an expansion of federal power is not a "proper" means for making those reforms effective ..."

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