(Phatforums News / USA Today) — The Supreme Court upheld President Obama’s health care law today in a splintered, complex opinion that gives Obama a major election-year victory.
Basically, the justices said that the individual mandate — the requirement that most Americans buy health insurance or pay a fine — is constitutional as a tax.
Chief Justice John Roberts — a conservative appointed by President George W. Bush — provided the key vote to preserve the landmark health care law, which figures to be a major issue in Obama’s re-election bid against Republican opponent Mitt Romney.
Obama is expected to comment on the decision within the next two hours.
The government had argued that Congress had the authority to pass the individual mandate as part of its power to regulate interstate commerce; the court disagreed with that analysis, but preserved the mandate because the fine amounts to a tax that is within Congress’ constitutional taxing powers.
The announcement will have a major impact on the nation’s health care system, the actions of both federal and state governments, and the course of the November presidential and congressional elections.
As lawyers examined the details of the various opinions, political analysts quickly predicted at least a short-term political boost for Obama.
Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, said “you can hear the sigh of relief at the White House” over a big plus for Obama.
“It allows the president’s signature achievement to stand,” Brown said. “Since politics is the ultimate zero-sum game, what’s good for Obama is bad for Gov. Mitt Romney.”
Brown also noted that the ruling allows the Republican “to continue campaigning against the law and promising to repeal it.”
The law’s individual mandate had been the key question for the court.
Critics called the requirement an unconstitutional overreach by Congress and the Obama administration; supporters say it is necessary to finance the health care plan.
While the individual mandate remains 18 months away from implementation, many other provisions of the health care law already have gone into effect, such as free wellness exams for seniors and allowing children up to age 26 to remain on their parents’ health insurance policies.
Other impacts will sort themselves out over the next several years:
– Health care millions of Americans will be affected – coverage for some, premiums for others. Doctors, hospitals, drug makers, insurers, and employers large and small all will feel the impact.
– States — some of which have moved ahead with the health care overhaul while others have held back — now have decisions to make. A deeply divided Congress could decide to re-enter the debate with legislation.
– The presidential race between Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney is sure to feel the repercussions. Obama’s health care law has proven to be slightly more unpopular than popular among Americans.
Not since the court confirmed George W. Bush’s election in December 2000 — before 9/11, Afghanistan and Iraq, Wall Street’s dive and Obama’s rise — has one case carried such sweeping implications for nearly every American.
Passed by Democrats along strictly partisan lines and still 18 months short of full implementation, the law is designed to extend health coverage to some 32 million uninsured people, ban insurers from discriminating against those with expensive ailments, and require nearly all Americans to buy insurance or pay penalties.
Its passage on March 23, 2010, marked the culmination of an effort by Democrats to overhaul the nation’s health care system that dates back to Harry Truman’s presidency. The most recent effort by President Bill Clinton in 1994 fell victim to Republican opposition. Since then, lesser changes have been enacted, including creation of a separate Children’s Health Insurance Program in the states.
Supreme Court upholds entire health care law
Editor’s note: We’re live blogging from the Supreme Court today as the nation waits to see how the justices will rule on the health care law. You can follow along below as CNN Supreme Court Producer Bill Mears and Senior Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin get the latest details live from the court as well as analysis when the opinion is delivered. Watch live coverage and analysis on CNN TV, CNN’s mobile apps and http://cnn.com/live.
[Updated at 10:29 a.m. ET] House minority leader Nancy Pelosi has reacted to the ruling:
Victory for the American people! Millions of American families and children will have certainty of health care benefits + affordable care.
28 Jun 12
[Updated at 10:28 a.m. ET] In its 5-4 decision to uphold the U.S. health care law, the Supreme Court answered several key questions:
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.
[Updated at 10:26 a.m. ET] Because the individual mandate has been upheld, and is essentially the funding behind everything else, this can be seen in large part as a major victory for President Obama, CNN Supreme Court Producer Bill Mears said.
Chief Justice John Roberts was the swing vote in the decision, Kate Bolduan reports, joining Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.
[Updated at 10:22 a.m. ET] CNN’s Kate Bolduan says that while the opinion upholds the healthcare plan, the opinion says the court “does not express any opinion on the wisdom of the Affordable Healthcare Act.”
That judgment is up to the people, according to the ruling.
The importance of the decision cannot be overstated: It will have an immediate and long-term impact on all Americans, both in how they get medicine and health care, and also in vast, yet-unknown areas of “commerce.”
[Updated at 10:19 a.m. ET] Even though there’s disagreement on the issue, the majority ruling is essentially saying it is up to the branches to work out the differences.
“When a court confronts an unconstitutional statue its endeavor must be to conserve, not destroy the legislation,” Roberts wrote.
ROBERTS QUOTE: The court does not express any opinion on the wisdom of the (healthcare law)… that is reserved to the ppl. Via @KateBolduan
28 Jun 12
The decision is 110 pages, including the dissent, which was written together by Justices Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas and Alito.
A concurring opinion was written by Justice Ginsberg.
[Updated at 10:16 a.m. ET] Kate Bolduan reports that the Chief Justice John Roberts issued a long opinion in which he said the controversial individual mandate may be upheld and is within Congress’ power under the taxing clause rather than the commerce clause.
Important to say that (obviously) this is a complicated ruling and Roberts’ did say indiv. mandate could not stand under Commerce Clause.
28 Jun 12
[Updated at 10:15 a.m. ET] The Supreme Court has upheld the entire health care law by a vote of 5 to 4, Supreme Court Producer Bill Mears said. That includes the medicare provision.
“[Updated at 10:06 a.m. ET] In a landmark decision that will impact the nation for decades, the Supreme Court on Thursday upheld a key provision of President Barack Obama’s health care law, ruling that requiring people to have health insurance violates the Constitution.
Chief Justice John Roberts had noted that however that the mandate would have been struck down based on the commerce clause , saying it would “open a new and vast domain” for Congressional power.
[Updated at 10:00 a.m. ET] A federal law making it a crime to falsely claim military medals earned was struck down Thursday by the Supreme Court. The 6-3 ruling was a free speech victory but perhaps in name only – for a onetime California public official who publicly lied about winning the prestigious Medal of Honor.