Obamacare upheld — as the tax Obama promised us it wasn’t

UPDATE at 11:59 a.m.: The president is expected to comment on the ruling at 12:15 p.m. One wonders how his remarks will square with White House talking points from the Obamacare debate, such as:

What President Obama is proposing is not a tax, but a requirement to comply with the law.

and

People are required to obey the speed limit and have to pay a penalty if they get caught speeding? Does anyone consider that a tax?

and

People are required to have car insurance and can be fined if they are caught without it. Is that a tax?

In one of the court’s other decisions today, United States v. Alvarez, the justices upheld American’s First Amendment rights to lie about receiving military honors. In the Obamacare ruling, the majority upheld politicians’ First Amendment rights to lie about their policies. Not that anyone thought that kind of lying would ever stop.

UPDATE at 11:42 a.m.: At first blush, any cheers for the court’s declining to uphold Obamacare based on the Commerce Clause should not be too loud.

Writing for the majority, Roberts says, among other things:

People, for reasons of their own, often fail to do things that would be good for them or good for society. Those failures — joined with the similar failures of others — can readily have a substantial effect on interstate commerce. Under the Government’s logic, that authorizes Congress to use its commerce power to compel citizens to act as the Government would have them act. That is not the country the Framers of our Constitution envisioned.

Sounds pretty strong, huh? Maybe even strong enough to place a firm limit on congressional powers under the Commerce Clause?

Maybe so. My guess, however, is that Congress will simply rely less on its Commerce Clause powers in the future and resort to its taxing powers, because Roberts shortly makes clear that this limitation applies only to “police powers” — that is, Congress cannot criminalize inactivity.

Turning to Congress’ taxing powers, Roberts seems to undercut everything he wrote about regulating inactivity:

Under the mandate, if an individual does not maintain health insurance, the only consequence is that he must make an additional payment to the IRS when he pays his taxes. … That, according to the [Federal] Government, means the mandate can be regarded as establishing a condition — not owning health insurance — that triggers a tax — the required payment to the IRS. Under that theory, the mandate is not a legal command to buy insurance. Rather, it makes going without insurance just another thing the Government taxes, like buying gasoline or earn­ing income. (emphasis added)

Viewed in the lens of taxation, then, inactivity is “just another thing,” like … wait for it … activity. So, everything Roberts wrote about Congress’ inability to regulate inactivity amounts to this: Congress can’t throw you in jail for not doing something, but it can take away your personal property for not doing something. This is hardly a comforting limitation.

UPDATE at 11:05 a.m.: The coalitions of justices on various parts of the ruling are a bit tricky to follow, but the bottom line is that Chief Justice John Roberts, appointed by President George W. Bush, voted to uphold the law in its entirety, while Justice Anthony Kennedy, a Reagan appointee and the supposed swing vote of the court, voted to throw it out in its entirety. So, while Kennedy had been seen as the one who would decide the law’s fate, he went right and the court went left. That’s one of many ways this precise ruling — not the broad outcome, but how a majority of justices reached it — is completely unexpected.

UPDATE at 10:55 a.m.: Finally have the ruling. It’s pretty clear why CNN blew it — and, oh, did they blow it, reporting first that the mandate was struck down. From page 2 of the summary:

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS concluded in Part III–A that the individual mandate is not a valid exercise of Congress’s power under the Commerce Clause and the Necessary and Proper Clause.

But then you turn to page 3 …

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS concluded in Part III–B that the individual mandate must be construed as imposing a tax on those who do not have health insurance, if such a construction is reasonable.

And page 4 …

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS delivered the opinion of the Court with respect to Part III–C, concluding that the individual mandate may be upheld as within Congress’s power under the Taxing Clause.

So, it’s a tax. Which is exactly what the Obama administration said it wasn’t while it was trying to pass the bill, and then reversed itself and said it was once the law got to court. That distinction may also have implications for repealing the bill.

More to come.

ORIGINAL POST:

The Supreme Court has upheld Obamacare as constitutional; beyond that, I can’t say much yet. There have been so many contradictory reports — including about the size of the majority — that I’m not going to comment further until I’ve read the opinion myself.

– By Kyle Wingfield

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474 comments Add your comment

JDW

June 28th, 2012
2:50 pm

@Hillbilly D….”Keep in mind that the average Georgian makes $30-35K a year. If they don’t have insurance through their job, very few will be able to purchase it.”

The law through tax credits and or Medicare expansion is set up so that no one has to pay more than 9.5 percent of income for quality insurance.

sue

June 28th, 2012
2:50 pm

citizens have the RIGHT to CHOOSE not to drive therefore they don’t have to pay for insurance or tickets!

independent thinker

June 28th, 2012
2:51 pm

Glad to see all the right wing sheep making gurgling noises on this blog because once again Obama pulled one over on them. I am sure they would prefer free Medicate drugs as passed by Bush or free emergency room care as passed by Reagan to the pay as you go requirement of Obama or suffer the consequences. Next get all the fat and lazy moochers who are on Medicare to pay for those luxury scooters they get for free and get them to pay for all those useless drugs big Pharma shoves down their throat with TV ads.

AmVet

June 28th, 2012
2:52 pm

Meat, the cleaners called and your sheets are ready.

THAT’s the line, you rube.

Get your own shtick.

Now…

http://tinyurl.com/meha9v

LOL.

not telling

June 28th, 2012
2:53 pm

I won’t pay it. Ever.

JDW

June 28th, 2012
2:53 pm

@Tiberius…”You really don’t understand business one bit, do you, JDW?”

Having run two businesses of more than 1000 people, one in the US and one based in Europe I got a pretty good handle thank you. As such I have a real good handle on insurance costs that companies pay particularly as you compare them worldwide.

Too cute

June 28th, 2012
2:54 pm

@Tiberius – I didn’t vote for him in 2008 and won’t be voting for him this year. But whatever it takes for you to reinforce your simple minded stereotypes of people you don’t agree with. No one expected the law to be upheld on the tax argument and so to turn that into “he lied” is kinda ridiculous and par for the course for people like you and Kyle. If the law had been struck down by Roberts solely because of the Commerce Clause then would we hear anything about his big “lie”? No. Obama, like Reagan and Bush and Clinton all have twisted the meaning of their policies to gain support. Nothing new. And if you think Reagan the Eleven Time Tax Raiser didn’t tell a few good fibs in his day then you really are hopeless.

And you missed my original point which was that right wing “journalists” like Kyle will twist this any way they can so they don’t look like complete idiots.

iggy

June 28th, 2012
2:54 pm

The workday is almost over. Im gonna go out and find a couple of cats to kick.

Lil' Barry Bailout (Revised Downward)

June 28th, 2012
2:55 pm

Mary, I’ve addressed you many times, generally pointing out that you’re a pompous know-nothing.

Jefferson would be organizing the second American Revolution if he were alive today.

It’s unfortunate that so few in recent generations were taught a love for freedom and have developed such a fear of personal responsibility. You are Exhibit A.

Tiberius - Banned from Bookman's and proud of it!

June 28th, 2012
2:55 pm

“The law through tax credits and or Medicare expansion is set up so that no one has to pay more than 9.5 percent of income for quality insurance.”

Really, JDW? And just where is that “quality insurance” going to come from when the private insurance industry no longer exists because they can no longer stay in business due to insufficient revenues?

Medicare?

Where are these new people on Medicare going to get their care from when doctors TODAY are not taking on new Medicare patients?

Lil' Barry Bailout (Revised Downward)

June 28th, 2012
2:56 pm

JDW: The Great Keyboard Kapitalist!

Tiberious, Refute this

June 28th, 2012
2:57 pm

I step back in for a moment and see that the Illogical opinion junkie Tiberius is still apoplectic about this decision. And he is still sawing on the “Coming Healthcare Apocalypse when employers drop healthcare for EVERYONE!!!!! AHHHHHH SCARY” nonsense. (Hint: your guesses are still not facts even if an hour has passed.)

The next logical progression is that you have nothing of value to add save your guesses and suppositions painted up to look like facts and to validate your sad little existence.

I”l check back and see how long you can keep up your screed. I will tell you though, I think only the choir s paying attention.

carlosgvv

June 28th, 2012
2:58 pm

The republicans announced they will meet in sessson ASAP and vote to repeal, just as I knew they would.

yuzeyurbrane

June 28th, 2012
2:59 pm

md–I was only joking last time I suggested that your handle must stand for your line of work. Looks like I was probably right.

ODD OWL

June 28th, 2012
2:59 pm

@ JDW 2;20 post….. The out of pocket cost, penalties for not enrolling in OBAMACARE is NOT enforceable by the IRS or any other Federal agency… OBAMACARE strictly forbid any insurance company or the IRS or any other Government agency from Garnisheeing your paycheck or placing a lien on your house or property if you don’t purchase OBAMACARE… In the near future, Congress will combine all the Government’s mandated, entitlement health care programs into one comprehensive, single payer UNIVERSAL NATIONAL HEALTH INSURANCE ENTITLEMENT called OBAMACARE… Bascally our health insurance will be FREE… The employers and the insurance companies will be forced to pay for most of it… Only in America baby !!! Obamanism and Americanism go together like hand and glove…

Love me some Reagan

June 28th, 2012
3:00 pm

Senator Obama didn’t even vote for Roberts

He and Roberts are now jamming over a “beer summit” at this moment……….. listening to some fine tune

http://blogs.ajc.com/kyle-wingfield/2012/06/28/obamacare-upheld-details-coming/?cp=8

Love me some Reagan

June 28th, 2012
3:00 pm

Tiberious, Refute this

June 28th, 2012
3:00 pm

Wait, before I go Tiberius has expanded the “Coming Healthcare Apocalypse when employers drop healthcare for EVERYONE!!!!! AHHHHHH SCARY” to include

“AND THE PRIVATE HEALTHCARE INDUSTRY IS GOING TO CEASE EXISTENCE!!! AHHHHH EVEN MORE SCARY.”

Love me some Reagan

June 28th, 2012
3:02 pm

quick, quick vote to repeal

Maybe as early as this week… It will die in the Senate and that is that

Bwhahhahahaaa

Tiberius - Banned from Bookman's and proud of it!

June 28th, 2012
3:02 pm

Still waiting for Refute this to post anything of substance or intelligence today.

iggy

June 28th, 2012
3:02 pm

“OBAMACARE strictly forbid any insurance company or the IRS or any other Government agency from Garnisheeing your paycheck or placing a lien on your house or property if you don’t purchase OBAMACARE…”

Yup. Seems the Grand Poobah, Nasty Pelosi and the other Dems forgot to mention that part.

Vote justice Roberts out of the supreme court in Noveber

June 28th, 2012
3:03 pm

Time 2 take R once grate counrty back from the libtards

Marilyn M

June 28th, 2012
3:04 pm

I support you Barak Obama and congratulate you on your achievements for all Americans, you have my vote! This Upheld Obama care is going to work out just fine for everyone, our President is honest and true and he wants all Americans to achieve in health wellfare and happiness, give him the support and tools he needs to keep this constitution fair to all.

Hillbilly D

June 28th, 2012
3:07 pm

The law through tax credits and or Medicare expansion is set up so that no one has to pay more than 9.5 percent of income for quality insurance.

But 9.5% of $30K is $2850 and it’s $3325 for $35K. If the tax/fine is $2085, a lot of people are going to take the tax/fine and hope they don’t get hurt or sick. If they do get hurt or sick, they aren’t going to be able to pay, so I can’t see where anything has been gained.

$2850 is $237.50 a month and you’re not going to come close to finding a decent policy for that. If you do find anything, it’ll cover little or nothing. I’ve already personally known a person or two who bought a low cost policy because it was all they could afford, then when they needed it, they found they were screwed because in the fine print, it turned out to only cover about 5% of what they needed and they had to declare bankruptcy

Old Timer

June 28th, 2012
3:07 pm

Yes it is a tax for everyone–Obama–tax and spend–the states can opt out of increasing Meidicad roles and still accept govrnment money. That means that some states will not add people to Medicaid–so guess who is going to pay for thieir medical care. Obama just spent this country into another hole. Folks there are no free lunches. You will see more jobless that will want extended unemployment–and who is going to pay for it? The entitlement society continues with vigor.

iggy

June 28th, 2012
3:07 pm

Oh Marilyn, spoken like a truely brainwashed ObaManiac.

Good luck with that.

Mary Elizabeth

June 28th, 2012
3:08 pm

LLB, 2:55 pm

“Mary, I’ve addressed you many times, generally pointing out that you’re a pompous know-nothing.”
=====================================

You prove the truth in my earlier remarks, Lil’ Barry, that you cannot address me without insulting me. I know you have addressed me many times, the first being when I objected to your insulting way of addressing the President of the United States. Your crudeness of sensitivity speaks for itself through your words. I always consider the source of remarks I read.

I have given one source for my knowledge of Jefferson’s thinking. Another source is Jefferson’s writings, themselves, contained in his “Autobiography” and in his “Public and Private Letters,” compiled in “The Life and Selected Writings of Thomas Jefferson.” Another is Gordon S. Wood’s book entitled, “Revolutionary Characters.”

Instead of insulting me, why don’t you, instead, name the source of your knowledge of Thomas Jefferson’s thinking, since you so boldly assert what Jefferson would be doing today.

I hope you will reflect, but I doubt that will happen. Good day.

Fez

June 28th, 2012
3:09 pm

I SAID GOOD DAY!

Tiberius - Banned from Bookman's and proud of it!

June 28th, 2012
3:10 pm

“I support you Barak Obama and congratulate you on your achievements for all Americans, you have my vote!”

Not thinking he didn’t have your vote before this, Marilyn M.

Don’t think he gained one with you today.

Tiberious, Refute this

June 28th, 2012
3:10 pm

I gave you a detailed reply at 12:08 that took you to task factually and showed the ludicrousness of your so called logic.

You chose to ignore that post. Problem is anyone with any sense and not blinded by partisanship can see you stand naked in the halls of logic.

In your simpleton world I suppose closing your eyes and acting like it didn’t happen makes the big bad old Refute go away. And in a way it does because I have actual work to do so….. bye.

AmVet

June 28th, 2012
3:11 pm

No tax increases for me, Uncle Sam haters.

I’m a BIG time socialist who takes handouts from the VA. And acting like a good little Reagan Republican here, screw everyone else and their problems; it’s all about me!

But to that point, when are you chickenhawks gonna actually start supporting the troops instead of the wars?

If the 2010 health law is upheld by the Supreme Court, it would extend health coverage to thousands of the nation’s veterans, a new study says.

The study, released Thursday, said about 630,000 uninsured veterans would likely qualify for Medicaid, the state-federal health insurance program for the poor, which would be expanded under the law. In addition, 520,000 uninsured vets could qualify for subsidized health coverage in new marketplaces, or insurance exchanges.

“It is striking how many of the uninsured veterans would qualify for Medicaid under the ACA,” said co-author Genevieve Kenney, senior fellow for the non-partisan Urban Institute.

One in 10 of the nation’s 12.5 million non-elderly veterans report not having health insurance coverage and not using the Veterans Affairs health system, the study reported.

http://www.standard.net/stories/2012/05/25/study-shows-veterans-will-benefit-under-obamacare

GFY

June 28th, 2012
3:11 pm

carlosgv:

Bookman has filed missing persons report on you…..AmVet has been located…..he has not taken his meds and is a little irritable…………

Tiberius - Banned from Bookman's and proud of it!

June 28th, 2012
3:13 pm

Refute this, I didn’t ignore your post, I called it lacking.

You really need to bone up on your reading comprehension skills, son.

GFY

June 28th, 2012
3:13 pm

AmVet:

Were you discharged under the old DADT policy that is now history?

Love me some Reagan

June 28th, 2012
3:13 pm

GFY

Not sure if you have ever seen or heard of this neat thing that you can do on your computer. You can open up more than one window at a time….. It is a pretty neat thing and very easy to utilize

just sayn

hgrady@uga.edu

June 28th, 2012
3:14 pm

Not having insurance is only inactivity if you don’t get sick. So, for example, your take a mortgage (i.e. you live in the US and are able to walk into any ER and be treated for trauma at any time). Your mortgage company requires you to have home owners. If you don’t have it, you lose your mortgage or pay penalties. That’s our choice here. Either let you die if you can’t pay or come up with a stick to get you to buy insurance. I prefer the later.

Frankly, I think it’s the best decision a conservative could ask for. If we repeal the law or if it was overturned, the only way to provide health care for all would be a single payer system…which would come shortly after 10 more years of out of control health care costs.

Mary Elizabeth's Man

June 28th, 2012
3:14 pm

Cookies, Woman!!! Cookies!!

JDW

June 28th, 2012
3:15 pm

@Tiberius…”And just where is that “quality insurance” going to come from when the private insurance industry no longer exists because they can no longer stay in business due to insufficient revenues?”

First off revenue won’t be the issue, everyone must buy so the market will expand, that’s the point of the mandate. What will be the issue is SG&A. In the US it varies but at big insurers it can be 18% of revenues. Going forward that will have to come down a lot.

To give you a benchmark in the UK its around 3% and even less in Canada.

Tiberius - Banned from Bookman's and proud of it!

June 28th, 2012
3:15 pm

AmVet, there are ways to address the 630,000 allegedly uncovered without screwing with the rest of us.

Sadly, that little bit of logic sails right over that pea-brain of yours.

Love me some Reagan

June 28th, 2012
3:16 pm

GFY

Is it a crime to be gay or you just showing a little bigotry?

JDW

June 28th, 2012
3:16 pm

@Hillbilly…”$2850 is $237.50 a month and you’re not going to come close to finding a decent policy for that.”

They will get tax credits that will enable them to pay market rate via the exchange.

GFY

June 28th, 2012
3:17 pm

Thanks to Love me long time for the tip on multiple windows……I do here tale their is something called spelling & grammar check but i ca’nt find it on the keeboard

ODD OWL

June 28th, 2012
3:17 pm

@ Old Timer 3:07 post….. OBAMACARE also insure all mental health ailments and we have many…

Love me some Reagan

June 28th, 2012
3:18 pm

Tiberius @ 3:15

Good point. Too bad when Bush had the WH and majority Congress from 01 to 07 they did little to nothing. Could have had things much more to the “rights” liken if they would have taken the initiative….

Tiberius - Banned from Bookman's and proud of it!

June 28th, 2012
3:18 pm

“First off revenue won’t be the issue, everyone must buy so the market will expand, that’s the point of the mandate.”

Epic fail.

You cannot expand revenues when they will be replaced with LOWER revenues, JDW.

Tiberius - Banned from Bookman's and proud of it!

June 28th, 2012
3:19 pm

Reagan, that is a deflection. In addition, I am not and never was a Bush fan (although he’s looking infinitely better as this current Disaster-in-Chief goes along).

GFY

June 28th, 2012
3:19 pm

Love me long time:

Not a crime that I am aware of…..you jumping to conclusions by reading a simple question? Ever thought there may be others who were discharged for a policy no longer in place? See if you can Google that on your tiled windowpanes.

Hillbilly D

June 28th, 2012
3:21 pm

JDW

We’ll just have to agree to disagree on this part. It’ll take at least twice the $2850 to buy a decent policy. A tax credit is fine in theory but you’ll be getting into the territory where they get bigger refunds than what they’ve paid in. So we’re pretty much where we are now.

Like I said, in my opinion, the only people this plan works for is the insurance industry.

JDW

June 28th, 2012
3:21 pm

@Tiberuis…the other issue that will have to be addressed is efficiency. In 2009 the US spent 17.4% of GDP on health care. In almost all of Europe it was around 11%, in the UK it was 9.8%, Japan was 8.5% and Canada was around 11%.

Fact is they got better outcomes for less money. Our system must improve and cut costs at the same time.

Now do the math and figure out the costs you are imposing on business in the US by making them foot this bill…it is a big competitive issue.

Love me some Reagan

June 28th, 2012
3:23 pm

Tiberius

Call it what you want. Repubs and cons are now crying, but for the most part they did do much when they had the opportunity.

It is a good bill………… not so much

If Romney is elected, much of it will get slowed down or go away. If Obama is reelected, the House and he better start working to tweak a law that will move forward

But call it what you want; fact remains they punted…… period, plain and simple