by Jeremy Leaming
Chief Justice John Roberts saved the nation’s top court from going over a cliff, barely. While a majority of the justices found the Affordable Care Act constitutional, they did so largely on Congress’s power to “lay and collect” taxes.
The Court’s majority opinion, however, found that the minimum coverage provision was not a regulation of commerce. The majority opinion also held that Congress can expand Medicaid coverage, but that it “is not free” to “penalize states that choose not to participate in that new program by taking away their existing Medicaid funding."
ACS President Caroline Fredrickson praised the decision, saying:
The U.S. Constitution and the American people won an important victory before the nation’s high court today. The Supreme Court wisely resolved the health care case, despite all the political posturing on the right. Chief Justice Roberts’ majority opinion for the Supreme Court, upholding the Affordable Care Act’s integral ‘minimum coverage’ provision, has allowed for progress providing health care for tens of millions of Americans. It remains to be seen what the impact will be of Chief Justice Roberts’ understanding of the difference between ‘activity’ and ‘inactivity’ under the Commerce Clause.
The Obama administration argued that the ACA’s integral provision, the minimum coverage provision, which requires some Americans to purchase health care coverage starting in 2014 or pay penalty on their income tax filings, was valid under the Constitution’s commerce clause and the constitutional power of Congress to tax and spend.