Supreme Court Upholds Affordable Care Act

Grace Foiles

In a 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court of the United States upheld that Congress has the authority to tax individuals not complying with the individual mandate requiring individuals to have health insurance.

After the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act went into effect on March 23, 2010, several states, the National Federation of Independent businesses, and individual plaintiffs Kaj Ahburg and Mary Brown brought actions in the US District Courts against the ACA.

The Plaintiffs argued that the minimum coverage provision and the subsequent tax penalty exceeded Congress’ power under the Commerce Clause and the mandated medicare expansion was a form of coercion.

The District Courts ruled that the individual mandate provision was not a valid exercise of Congress’ commerce or taxing powers thus rendering the entire act invalid. They dismissed the states’ challenge on employer mandates and granted judgment to the federal government on the Medicaid expansions.

The Supreme Court’s decision was 5 votes for United States Department of Health and Human Services, and 4 votes against.

Chief Justice Roberts, along with Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan, came to the conclusion that the Individual Mandate penalty is a tax for the purposes of the Constitution’s Taxing and Spending Clause and therefore a valid exercise of the authority vested in Congress.

Chief Justice Roberts, with Justices Scalia, Kennedy, Alito, and Thomas, decided that while the Commerce Clause allows Congress to regulate existing commercial activity they cannot compel persons to participate in commerce.

“I don’t think the government should be allowed to tell the people what insurance policy and how much they can spend on their insurance policies,” said Stephen Woody, a recent Washburn graduate with a bachelor’s degree in history and librarian intern at Washburn University Mabee Library. “I don’t think it’s right that they should be able to dictate what plans we receive”

Woody said the government is in place to keep the private sector in check so there should be regulations in place.”As far as forcing healthcare down people’s throats, I do not agree with that,” Woody said.

Eileen Hawley, Communications Director and Press Secretary for the Office of Governor Sam Brownback, stated as the governor’s spokesperson that the decision by the Supreme Court was very disappointing and blatantly ignores the language of the law.

“Kansans will continue to suffer higher health care costs, including insurance premium increases of more than 30 percent,” Hawley said, “We are hopeful that Congress and President Obama’s administration will provide states the needed flexibility in finding Kansas solutions to our health care challenges.”