Don’t call it a mandate — it’s a tax
Posted Thu, June 28th, 2012 11:07 am
Salvaging the idea that Congress did have the power to try to expand health care to virtually all Americans, the Supreme Court on Monday upheld the constitutionality of the crucial – and most controversial — feature of the Affordable Care Act. By a vote of 5-4, however, the Court did not sustain it as a command for Americans to buy insurance, but as a tax if they don’t. That is the way Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., was willing to vote for it, and his view prevailed. The other Justices split 4-4, with four wanting to uphold it as a mandate, and four opposed to it in any form.
Since President Obama signed the new law, it has been understood by almost everyone that the expansion of health care coverage to tens of millions of Americans without it could work — economically — only if the health insurance companies were guaranteed a large pool of customers. The mandate to buy health insurance by 2014 was the method Congress chose to supply that pool. It is not immediately clear whether the Court’s approach will produce as large a pool of new customers. The ACA’s key provision now amounts to an invitation to buy insurance, rather than an order to do so, with a not-very-big tax penalty for going without.
The decision to keep at least some foundation under the expanded coverage will lead almost certainly to renewed efforts by Republicans in Congress to repeal all or most of the new law. And, of course, the Court’s decision is guaranteed to become a very prominent fixture of debate in this year’s continuing presidential and congressional elections.
Recommended Citation: Lyle Denniston, Don’t call it a mandate — it’s a tax, SCOTUSblog (Jun. 28, 2012, 11:07 AM), http://www.scotusblog.com/2012/06/dont-call-it-a-mandate-its-a-tax/