The U.S. Supreme Court today has ruled that the Affordable Care Act and its individual mandate requiring people to buy health insurance is constitutional.
By a 5-4 vote, the justices upheld most of the act, although the opinion is a complicated one. The court upheld the requirement that every American purchase health insurance or else pay a penalty, as a tax decision and upheld it on those grounds, in an opinion written by Chief Justice Roberts.
"Our precedent demonstrates that Congress has the power to impose the exaction in Section 5000 under the taxing power, and that Section 5000 need not be read to do more than impose a tax," Roberts wrote in one of the key sentences from the opinion.
The central issue considered by the court was whether Congress' power to regulate commerce means that it can mandate people to buy health insurance, The Atlantic reported. The individual mandate was the centerpiece of President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
The idea behind the mandate, as NPR reported, was that it would reduce health care costs by broadening the base of those paying premiums and by reducing costs associated with the uninsured who resort to seeking treatment in emergency rooms.
The individual health care mandate is the key provision in Obamacare, and some legal experts thought that it could be ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. Had it been stripped from the law, many other provisions—such as covering people with pre-existing conditions and not capping insurance coverage—most likely would have been removed, as well.
The decision is a major victory for the Obama administration, which touted the law passed in March 2010 as its signature legislative achievement. However, there are other Americans who decried the law because of concerns about the federal government's role in regulating the health care industry.
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