Supreme Court upholds most of ‘Obamacare’

Jun 28, 2012

Initial accounts from various news organizations on the U.S. Supreme Court's 5-4 decision to uphold most of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act were vague and sometimes confusing at best today.

Apparently trying to be first with the big news, CNN trumpeted that the individual mandate for everyone to have health insurance had been overturned. It later backed off the announcement as more of the opinions and statements were read in court.

Other news organizations held back for more and then proclaimed the mandate had been upheld as a tax.

USA Today said that the “splintered, complex opinion (you can read the opinions here)  appears to give President Obama a major victory.”

“Basically. the justices said that while Congress did overreach in part with the individual mandate -- the requirement that most Americans buy health insurance or pay a fine -- the provision is held constitutional as a tax.

"The announcement will have a major impact on the nation's health care system, the actions of both federal and state governments, and the course of the November presidential and congressional elections.”

The Washington Post noted the ruling says “the mandate is permissible under Congress’s taxing authority.”

“The potentially game-changing, election-year decision — a major victory for the White House less than five months before the November elections --will help redefine the power of the national government and affect the health-care choices of millions of Americans.

"Passage of the legislation by the Democratic-controlled Congress in 2010 was the signature domestic achievement of Obama’s presidency, capping decades of efforts to implement a national program of health care. When the legislation was passed, it was expected to eventually extend health-care coverage to more than 30 million Americans who currently lack it.

"Republicans in Congress and GOP presidential challenger Mitt Romney vowed to try and repeal the measure after the November elections if it was upheld by the court.”

The Wall Street Journal noted that the court’s decision also makes some changes to a portion of the law.

“It upheld the mandate as a tax, in an opinion by Chief Justice John Roberts. The justices also found fault with part of the health-care law's expansion of Medicaid, a joint federal-state insurance program for the poor. The justices made some changes to the Medicaid portion of the law.”

The Chicago Tribune Washington bureau elaborated:

Chief Justice Roberts said the required expansion of Medicaid violates states’ rights and may be unconstitutional.

“The states are given no choice in this case. They must either accept a basic change in the nature of Medicaid or risk losing all Medicaid funding,” he wrote.

He said the federal government cannot require the states to follow this part of the law.

We’ll provide updates and more stories as they become available.