U.S. Supreme Court upholds health care mandate

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Thursday, June 28, 2012

U.S. Supreme Court building.
Image: Kjetil Ree.

In a decision today, the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the controversial healthcare law, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, passed in 2010. The Supreme Court also upheld the individual mandate provision of the law, which would require most U.S. citizens to obtain health insurance by 2014, or pay a monetary penalty.

The Supreme Court ruled on the law 5–4. Chief Justice John Roberts authored the majority opinion. Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor jointed Roberts in the majority, while Samuel Alito, Anthony Kennedy, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas were in the minority in supporting the repeal of the law.

The Court did, however, strike down a provision of the law which would have expanded Medicaid to make coverage available to anyone with an income less than 138% of the federal poverty line.

President Obama's statement on the Supreme Court's decision

President Barack Obama made a public statement from the White House saying that the Supreme Court's upholding of the law, "reaffirmed a fundamental principle that here in America -- in the wealthiest nation on Earth – no illness or accident should lead to any family’s financial ruin." Obama further added, "Whatever the politics, today’s decision was a victory for people all over this country whose lives will be more secure because of this law and the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold it." Obama closed his statement by saying, "The highest Court in the land has now spoken. We will continue to implement this law. And we'll work together to improve on it where we can. But what we won’t do -- what the country can’t afford to do -- is refight the political battles of two years ago, or go back to the way things were." Adding, "With today’s announcement, it’s time for us to move forward -- to implement and, where necessary, improve on this law."

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney also gave a statement from Washington, D.C. saying, "What the Court did not do on its last day in session, I will do on my first day if elected President of the United States. And that is I will act to repeal Obamacare." Romney clarified further by saying, "Let’s make clear that we understand what the Court did and did not do. What the Court did today was say that Obamacare does not violate the Constitution. What they did not do was say that Obamacare is good law or that it's good policy." Further adding, "Obamacare was bad policy yesterday. It's bad policy today. Obamacare was bad law yesterday. It’s bad law today." Romney closed by saying, "Our mission is clear: If we want to get rid of Obamacare, we're going to have to replace President Obama."

Eric Cantor, Republican leader in the U.S. House of Representatives, announced shortly after the ruling that the House would vote on repealing the law on July 11, following the July 4 holiday recess. Cantor said, "The Supreme Court’s decision to uphold Obamacare is a crushing blow to patients throughout the country. Obamacare has failed to keep the President’s basic promise of allowing those who like their health care to keep it, while increasing costs and reducing access to quality care for patients."

In the ruling of National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius, John Roberts wrote, "Simply put, Congress may tax and spend. The federal government may enact a tax on an activity that it cannot authorize, forbid or otherwise control." Meanwhile, Justice Anthony Kennedy authored the dissenting opinion, saying the entire law should have been repealed.

The ruling on the law comes after 26 states challenged the law in oral arguments in front of the Supreme Court in March.


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