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Supreme Court Upholds Key Part Of Obama Health Law

This article is more than 10 years old.
The Supreme Court (AP)
The Supreme Court (AP)


WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the individual insurance requirement at the heart of President Barack Obama's historic health care overhaul.

The decision means the huge overhaul, still only partly in effect, will proceed and pick up momentum over the next several years, affecting the way that countless Americans receive and pay for their personal medical care. The ruling also hands Obama a campaign-season victory in rejecting arguments that Congress went too far in requiring most Americans to have health insurance or pay a penalty.

Breaking with the court's other conservative justices, Chief Justice John Roberts announced the judgment that allows the law to go forward with its aim of covering more than 30 million uninsured Americans.

The justices rejected two of the administration's three arguments in support of the insurance requirement. But the court said the mandate can be construed as a tax. "Because the Constitution permits such a tax, it is not our role to forbid it, or to pass upon its wisdom or fairness," Roberts said.

The court found problems with the law's expansion of Medicaid, but even there said the expansion could proceed as long as the federal government does not threaten to withhold states' entire Medicaid allotment if they don't take part in the law's extension.

The court's four liberal justices, Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, joined Roberts in the outcome.

Justices Samuel Alito, Anthony Kennedy, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas dissented.

"The act before us here exceeds federal power both in mandating the purchase of health insurance and in denying non-consenting states all Medicaid funding," the dissenters said in a joint statement.

Republican campaign strategists said presidential candidate Mitt Romney will use the court's ruling to continue campaigning against "Obamacare" and attacking the president's signature health care program as a tax increase.

"Obama might have his law, but the GOP has a cause," said veteran campaign adviser Terry Holt. "This promises to galvanize Republican support around a repeal of what could well be called the largest tax increase in American history."


  • Emily Bazelon, legal affairs editor at Slate
  • Jim Roosevelt, CEO of Tufts Health Plan in Massachusetts. He's also co-chair of rules and bylaws for the Democratic National Committee and is the grandson of Franklin D. Roosevelt
  • David Cordani, CEO of the country's 4th largest insurer, Cigna. Randy Barnett, a Georgetown University Law professor and the libertarian architect of the challenge against the Affordable Care Act
  • Jonathan Gruber, professor of economics at MIT. He's the architect behind the Massachusetts health care law and was an adviser to the Obama administration and Congress on the Affordable Care Act
  • Rick Klein, senior Washington Editor for ABC News
  • Jonathan Turley, professor of law at George Washington University

This segment aired on June 28, 2012.


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