Read the U.S. Supreme Court decision on health care reform for yourself here, but feel free to take a walk with me through these excerpts:
On the penalty vs. tax question:
The present challenge seeks to restrain the collection of the shared responsibility payment from those who do not comply with the individual mandate. But Congress did not intend the payment to be treated as a “tax” for purposes of the Anti-Injunction Act. The Affordable Care Act describes the payment as a “penalty,” not a “tax.” That label cannot control whether the payment is a tax for purposes of the Constitution, but it does determine the application of the Anti-Injunction Act. The Anti-Injunction Act therefore does not bar this suit…..
Why the “commerce clause” flunked as a vehicle for health care:
The Constitution grants Congress the power to “regulate Commerce.” … The power to regulate commerce presupposes the existence of commercial activity to be regulated. This Court’s precedent reflects this understanding: As expansive as this Court’s cases construing the scope of the commerce power have been, they uniformly describe the power as reaching “activity.”
… The individual mandate, however, does not regulate existing commercial activity. It instead compels individuals to become active in commerce by purchasing a product, on the ground that their failure to do so affects interstate commerce.
Construing the Commerce Clause to permit Congress to regulate individuals precisely because they are doing nothing would open a new and potentially vast domain to congressional authority. Congress already possesses expansive power to regulate what people do. Upholding the Affordable Care Act under the Commerce Clause would give Congress the same license to regulate what people do not do.
The Framers knew the difference between doing something and doing nothing. They gave Congress the power to regulate commerce, not to compel it. Ignoring that distinction would undermine the principle that the Federal Government is a government of limited and enumerated powers. The individual mandate thus cannot be sustained under Congress’s power to “regulate Commerce.”
On why the high court free felt free to say a “penalty” is now “a tax:”
Chief Justice John Roberts concluded … that the individ¬ual mandate must be construed as imposing a tax on those who do not have health insurance, if such a construction is reasonable.
The most straightforward reading of the individual mandate is that it commands individuals to purchase insurance. But, for the reasons explained, the Commerce Clause does not give Congress that power. It is therefore necessary to turn to the Government’s alternative argument: that the mandate may be upheld as within Congress’s power to “lay and collect Taxes.” In pressing its taxing power argument, the Government asks the Court to view the mandate as imposing a tax on those who do not buy that product. Because “every reasonable construction must be resorted to, in order to save a statute from unconstitutionality,” the question is whether it is “fairly possible” to interpret the mandate as imposing such a tax…
In answering that constitutional question, this Court follows a functional approach,“[d]isregarding the designation of the exaction, and viewing its substance and application.”
Such an analysis suggests that the shared responsibility payment may for constitutional purposes be considered a tax. The payment is not so high that there is really no choice but to buy health insurance; the payment is not limited to willful violations, as penalties for unlawful acts often are; and the payment is collected solely by the IRS through the normal means of taxation…..
Behind the high court’s rejection of the federal demand that states expand Medicaid coverage – or else:
CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS, joined by JUSTICE BREYER and JUSTICE KAGAN, concluded … that the Medicaid expansion violates the Constitution by threatening States with the loss of their existing Medicaid funding if they decline to comply with the expansion.
The Spending Clause grants Congress the power “to pay the Debts and provide for the . . . general Welfare of the United States.” Congress may use this power to establish cooperative state-federal Spending Clause programs. The legitimacy of Spending Clause legislation, however, depends on whether a State voluntarily and knowingly accepts the terms of such programs. “[T]he Constitution simply does not give Congress the authority to require the States to regulate.” When Congress threatens to terminate other grants as a means of pressuring the States to accept a Spending Clause program, the legislation runs counter to this Nation’s system of federalism.
The threatened loss of over 10 percent of a State’s overall budget is economic dragooning that leaves the States with no real option but to acquiesce in the Medicaid expansion. The Government claims that the expansion is properly viewed as only a modification of the existing program, and that this modification is permissible because Congress reserved the “right to alter, amend, or repeal any provision” of Medicaid. But the expansion accomplishes a shift in kind, not merely degree. The original program was designed to cover medical services for particular categories of vulnerable individuals. Under the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid is transformed into a program to meet the health care needs of the entire non-elderly population with income below 133 percent of the poverty level.
Let the conversation begin.
- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider