On June 28, 2012, the Supreme Court of the United States upheld most of the Affordable Care Act, President Obama’s comprehensive health care law. The central issue before the Court was the individual health insurance mandate, the section of the law that requires virtually all Americans to purchase health insurance or pay a fine. In the 5-4 decision, written by Chief Justice Roberts, the personal mandate was upheld as constitutional since it can be reasonably characterized as a tax, and therefore falls within Congress’ power to lay and collect taxes.
One important section of the law that was struck down dealt with the major expansion of the Medicaid program and the federal government’s enforcement of the expansion on the state level. Essentially, the law threatened to penalize states that didn’t participate in the Medicaid expansion by entirely withdrawing federal funding for existing Medicaid programs. Seven justices agreed that this provision was overreaching and coercive, and that Medicaid expansion should be optional for the states.
Though today’s decision invalidates certain parts of the Act, and in some ways limits the federal government’s power by relying on Congress’ taxation powers and not the Commerce Clause, the holding is by and large a big victory for President Obama, Democrats and supporters of health care reform. Stay tuned to the Best Elder Law Blog and The Elder Law Exchange Newsletter to find out how this ruling will impact you and your family.