In what has been termed the most consequential decision of the decade, the Supreme Court has upheld the individual mandate in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA)–President Obama’s signature health care legislation. That mandate generally requires most U.S. citizens and legal residents maintain minimum essential health insurance coverage for tax years ending after Dec. 31, 2013, or pay a penalty. Considered the lynchpin of the health care Act, there had been widespread speculation that if the mandate fell, the Court might also decide that none of the Act’s other provisions could survive.

The Supreme Court found that the mandate did not pass muster under the Constitution’s Commerce Clause (the authority to regulate interstate commerce) or the Necessary and Proper Clause (as an integral part of otherwise legitimate legislation). However, the Court’s 5-4 majority opinion, authored by Chief Justice Roberts, concluded that the mandate was a valid exercise of the Constitution’s Tax Clause (the authority to tax). Accordingly, President Obama’s landmark health care reform, while still controversial and sure to remain a hotly debated political issue, has been legitimized as a valid law.

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