SCOTUSblog live blog of opinions June 28, 2012
We have health care opinion.
The individual mandate survives as a tax.
- So the mandate is constitutional. Chief Justice Roberts joins the left of the Court.
- The Medicaid provision is limited but not invalidated.
- The bottom line: the entire ACA is upheld, with the exception that the federal government’s power to terminate states’ Medicaid funds is narrowly read.
- Chief Justice Roberts’ vote saved the ACA.
- The money quote from the section on the mandate: 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.
- The court reinforces that individuals can simply refuse to pay the tax and not comply with the mandate.
- On the Medicaid issue, a majority of the Court holds that the Medicaid expansion is constitutional but that it w/b unconstitutional for the federal government to withhold Medicaid funds for non-compliance with the expansion provisions.
- The key comment on salvaging the Medicaid expansion is this (from Roberts): “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.” (p. 55)
- The critical detail is that you cannot take away the existing Medicaid funds.
- The Court does not reach severability issues, having upheld the mandate 5-4.
- To readers of the Roberts opinion, a caution: It is the opinion of the Court through the top of p. 44; the balance is labeled as, and is, Roberts speaking for himself.
- Another way to think about Medicaid: the Constitution requires that states have a choice about whether to participate in the expansion of eligibility; if they decide not to, they can continue to receive funds for the rest of the program.
- Apologies – you can’t refuse to pay the tax; typo. The only effect of not complying with the mandate is that you pay the tax.
- The Court holds that the mandate violates the Commerce Clause, but that doesn’t matter b/c there are five votes for the mandate to be constitutional under the taxing power.
- The Court holds that the Anti-Injunction Act doesn’t apply because the label “tax” is not controlling.
- Justice Ginsburg makes clear that the vote is 5-4 on sustaining the mandate as a form of tax. Her opinion, for herself and Sotomayor, Breyer and Kagan, joins the key section of Roberts opinion on that point. She would go further and uphold the mandate under the Commerce Clause, which Roberts wouldn’t. Her opinion on Commerce does not control.
- Kennedy is reading from the dissent.
- Justice Ginsburg would uphold Medicaid just as Congress wrote it. That, too, is not controlling.
- In opening his statement in dissent, Kennedy says: “In our view, the entire Act before us is invalid in its entirety.”
- We’re still here. Getting deeper into the weeds. Plain English coming momentarily.
- The opinion is still not available electronically.
- In Plain English: The Affordable Care Act, including its individual mandate that virtually all Americans buy health insurance, is constitutional. There were not five votes to uphold it on the ground that Congress could use its power to regulate commerce between the states to require everyone to buy health insurance. However, five Justices agreed that the penalty that someone must pay if he refuses to buy insurance is a kind of tax that Congress can impose using its taxing power. That is all that matters. Because the mandate survives, the Court did not need to decide what other parts of the statute were constitutional, except for a provision that required states to comply with new eligibility requirements for Medicaid or risk losing their funding. On that question, the Court held that the provision is constitutional as long as states would only lose new funds if they didn’t comply with the new requirements, rather than all of their funding.
- We’re checking on whether the Court is still reading.
- Yes, to answer a common question, the whole ACA is constitutional, so the provision requiring insurers to cover young adults until they are 26 survives as well.
- Kennedy still reading from dissent.
- The Justices are still reading from their opinions in the courtroom. We will get more info on who is reading what when we can from Lyle at the Court.
- The ACA is the acronym for Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — the health care bill, also known as Obamacare.
Here is the opinion in the health care cases: http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/11pdf/11-393c3a2.pdf