In case you didn’t hear, the Supreme Court upheld the largest healthcare overhaul in American history. The Affordable Care Act signed into law by the Obama Administration a while back is the largest paradigm shift in an industry since… that time the government took control of auto production in World War II to make tanks, planes and battleships. Whether you like the bill or vehemently oppose it, a page has been turned in American healthcare, and we are starting a new chapter.
While the GOP complains about the Supreme Court (despite the fact that a majority of the Justices are Republicans) I think we as interested Americans should actually look at what happened in the today. …Because I don’t think a lot of us were expecting what happened.
Yes, the Supreme Court made a 5-4 ruling. This has become more and more of a trend since George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush vowed to put staunch conservatives on the Supreme Court, but for the first time in a good while, the five were not composed of the five Republicans on the court. No, the five this time were Clinton and Obama appointees; Breyer, Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan. …and…
Drum roll please…
Wait. John Roberts voted to allow a law through that would aim to provide healthcare to millions of Americans at the cost of major insurance companies? Wasn’t this one of the same guys that said Corporations are people?
Chief Justice Roberts and the rest of the nine Supreme Court Justices were tasked with reviewing the constitutionality of section 5000A of the ACA. 5000A was one of the controversial bits about requiring people to have healthcare or else they would be fined. Other parts of the law make clear that if you can’t afford healthcare then it will be provided to you through government grants, but if you can reasonably afford healthcare and you choose not to get it, then you get fined until you get on a healthcare program.
If this sounds like a bit of an in-your-face approach, then chances are you would like Justice Antonin Scalia’s opposing opinion. It’s more than halfway down this PDF document. Scalia and co. argued that this requirement was outside the constitutional limits of Congress and therefore the section in question should be overturned for being unconstitutional.
Chief Justice Roberts saw it differently. You see, Congress can tax citizens, and if you didn’t know that, you probably don’t live here. Roberts read 5000A and interpreted it (as the government argued) as a form of tax. So when I said earlier that Congress can fine you for not having health insurance, consider it a no-health-insurance-tax. Roberts made very clear in his opinion; it is unconstitutional for a government to order it’s citizens to buy or sell things, but the Constitution says that Congress can make taxes, and in this situation Congress made a tax on not having healthcare.
Roberts’ decision is intelligent and narrow, leaving the law open to other constitutional challenges on other issues. For example, the Catholic Church can still have a case about being indirectly required to fund contraceptives. …Though I would like to warn them of this precedent right here that might stand in the way to success. Usually Justice Kennedy is the conservative justice who is wooed over to the left by
Justice Ginsburg’s home made cookies solid legal arguments. But this time it was Roberts who surprised everyone and grabbed the plate switched to the progressive side.
So for low-income families today, it’s like some clouds are being blown away. For political moderates, it’s time to start amending specific parts of the ACA to make it better and more efficient. For Republicans and especially big health insurance companies, it probably feels like someone is trying to drain Uncle Scrooge’s pool.
For more on what the Justices had to say, check this out.