Supreme Court Upholds Most of Obamacare

The Supreme Court--with Chief Justice John Roberts leading the majority--has voted to uphold the heart of Obamacare, or the Affordable Care Act, according to reports on Scotusblog, in its first quick reading of the Supreme Court's historic health care reform decision.

The ACA's requirement that all Americans (except the very poor) have a health insurance plan by January 2014 or pay a tax penalty was upheld, giving the Obama administration a tremendous political victory.

However, the decision appeared to allow the coverage mandate to stand based on the Congress's ability to impose a tax, not under its constitutional authority to regulate interstate commerce. That interpretation is a victory for conservative ideologues, as it may constrain future congressional action on national economic issues.

Scotusblog said this was the Chief Justice's key quote, "Our precedent demonstrates that Congress had the power to impose the exaction in Section 5000A under the taxing power, and that Section 5000A need not be read to do more than impose a tax.  This is sufficient to sustain it."

Another major element of the law, concerning the expansion of state-based Medicaid programs to help the working poor and elderly was largely upheld, but apparently with restrictions that may allow red states not to implement the ACA, according to early reports. 

On the Medicaid expansion, this was Robert's key quote, "Nothing in our opinion precludes Congress from offering funds under the ACA to expand the availability of health care, and requiring that states accepting such funds comply with the conditions on their use. What Congress is not free to do is to penalize States that choose not to participate in that new program by taking away their existing Medicaid funding." 

In other words, it remains to be seen if red states will still be able to thumb their noses at the Obama administration and Congress and not implement the Medicaid expansion--such as opening clinics in underserved areas--without losing any funds for its other existing Medicaid programs.

Reading from the bench, Justice Anthony Kennedy made it clear that he--and presumably the other conservative judges would have thrown out the entire law.

Alternet will have more reports and update its analysis as the day proceeds.

AlterNet / By Steven Rosenfeld

Posted at June 28, 2012, 4:32am

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