So the Supreme Court Ruling on Obamacare is interesting. Justice Roberts, who is Catholic, by the way, ruled with the majority that the government’s plan is constitutional–but he did so in a most interesting way.
From the Washington Post:
If you read the opinions, he sided with the conservative bloc on every major legal question before the court. He voted with the conservatives to say the Commerce Clause did not justify the individual mandate. He voted with the conservatives to say the Necessary and Proper Clause did not justify the mandate. He voted with the conservatives to limit the federal government’s power to force states to carry out the planned expansion of Medicaid. ”He was on-board with the basic challenge,” said Orin Kerr, a law professor at George Washington University and a former clerk to Justice Kennedy. “He was on the conservative side of the controversial issues.”
His break with the conservatives, and his only point of agreement with the liberals, was in finding that the mandate was a “tax” — a finding that, while extremely important for the future of the Affordable Care Act, is not a hugely consequential legal question.
So in short, this means in layman’s terms that the government can’t force you to buy health care, despite the Republican wonks who will claim that this is what today’s ruling means. One should read the whole ruling by Roberts which is brilliant, especially this bit:
Upholding the Affordable Care Act under the Commerce Clause would give Congress the same license to regulate what people do not do. The Framers knew the difference between doing something and doing nothing. They gave Congress the power to regulate commerce, not to compel it. Ignoring that distinction would undermine the principle that the Federal Government is a government of limited and enumerated powers.
What the government can do is impose a tax for those who don’t buy health care which is very similar to the state requiring us to buy car insurance or pay a fine if you get caught driving without it.
In the weirdest twist of Supreme Court Irony, Judge Kennedy who is usually the swing vote on these issues sided with the more conservative side, which signaled to many that the Affordable Care Act was going to be overturned. But Chief Justice Roberts turned the tables in a remarkable game of legal chess. He sided with many of the conservative arguments, save one, which made all the difference for the federal government.
The most straightforward reading of the individual mandate is that it commands individuals to purchase insurance. But, for the reasons explained, the Commerce Clause does not give Congress that power. It is therefore necessary to turn to the Government’s alternative argument: that the mandate may be upheld as within Congress’s power to “lay and collect Taxes.” Art. I, §8, cl. 1. In pressing its taxing power argument, the Government asks the Court to view the mandate as imposing a tax on those who do not buy that product. Because “every reasonable construction must be resorted to, in order to save a statute from unconstitutionality,” Hooper v. California, 155 U. S. 648, the question is whether it is “fairly possible” to interpret the mandate as imposing such a tax, Crowell v. Benson, 285 U. S. 22. Pp. 31–32.
Roberts goes on to say one further thing:
Such an analysis suggests that the shared responsibility payment may for constitutional purposes be considered a tax. The payment is not so high that there is really no choice but to buy health insurance; the payment is not limited to willful violations, as penalties for unlawful acts often are; and the payment is collected solely by the IRS through the normal means of taxation. Cf. Bailey v. Drexel Furniture Co., 259 U. S. 20–37. None of this is to say that payment is not intended to induce the purchase of health insurance. But the mandate need not be read to declare that failing to do so is unlawful. Neither the Affordable Care Act nor any other law attaches negative legal consequences to not buying health insurance, beyond requiring a payment to the IRS. And Congress’s choice of language—stating that individuals “shall” obtain insurance or pay a “penalty”—does not require reading §5000A as punishing unlawful conduct. It may also be read as imposing a tax on those who go without insurance. See New York v. United States, 505 U. S. 144–174. Pp. 35–40.
So I’ve seen thousands of well…frankly stupid comments from people who obviously didn’t read the ruling. Instead, they say things like this makes the government a dictatorship and that they are making people buy insurance. To them I say, “Nope. Buy it or don’t buy it. But if you don’t, you have to pay a tax.” Furthermore, some will say “But what if I can’t afford it?” Well in 2014 Obamacare will give you insurance free of charge. That’s the whole point of the law, that everyone will be covered. They should probably extend that to undocumented immigrants working in the U.S. as the U.S. Bishops have stated, but that’s something that can be amended later if enough people lobby for it.
Universal health care is a right in my opinion and the Supreme Court didn’t exactly say that in this ruling, but I think Chief Justice Roberts wisely stood with the poor today and still held his Republican ideals high. He’s exactly who he said he’d be in the hearings and for that we should all be grateful because that’s what the court should do–slug it out in healthy debate that’s free from bias.
Sorta like this…the way it should be….and what makes our country great: