The U.S. Supreme Court today upheld the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. By a vote of 5-4, the Court ruled that the part of the law that requires everyone to buy health insurance or pay a fine – the so-called “individual mandate” – is constitutional because it amounts to a tax, which Congress has authority to levy. This was a stunning decision because conservative Chief Justice John Robert joined the Court’s four liberal justices and became the deciding vote to uphold the signature achievement of President Obama’s first term.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was signed into law on March 23, 2010, with most of its provisions scheduled to take full effect by Jan. 1, 2014. Among other things, the law:
— Allows young people to stay on their parents’ health insurance plan until age 26
— Prevents insurance companies from placing dollar limits on lifetime health care coverage
— Provides some preventive services like mammograms and cancer screenings for free
— Prevents insurance companies from denying anyone coverage because of a pre-existing condition
— Prevents insurance companies from imposing annual coverage limits
— Establishes state-based “exchanges” where people can buy affordable health insurance
Although the heart of the law was upheld, the Court struck down one of its components – the expansion of Medicaid. By a vote of 7-2, the Court ruled that Congress had exceeded its constitutional authority by coercing states into participating in the expansion of Medicaid by threatening them with the loss of existing federal payments.
The Court’s opinion is available here.
Note – California was the first state in the country to implement an insurance exchange following passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in March 2010. The exchange began in January 2011. In addition, California is at the forefront of implementing all other aspects of the law. After the U.S. Supreme Court announced its decision upholding the law, the State of California published its FAQ response on how the decision will benefit Californians. You can read that here.