Was there a bigger legal decision in 2012 than the U.S. Supreme Court’s upholding of Obamacare?
The Court’s decision examined the 2010 enactment of national health care legislation euphemistically referred to as “Obamacare,” officially titled the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.” See National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius, 567 U.S. __ (2012).
There is little debate that no decision was more eagerly anticipated, especially on the cusp of the presidential election. The Harvard Journal of Law & Technology succinctly summarized the decision as follows:
A five-justice majority held that the individual mandate was a valid exercise of Congress’s taxing power . . . [S]even justices found that the Medicaid expansion was unconstitutional because it exceeded Congress’s spending power by coercing the states to accept the expanded Medicaid coverage. The majority, however, held that the unconstitutional application of the Medicaid expansion could be severed from the remainder of the [law].
Here are 3 takeaways from this historic decision:
1. By announcing the decision in June 2012 and upholding legislation championed by the Obama Administration, the decision greatly helped Obama’s November re-election.
2. Over heated debate, the law’s “individual mandate” provision – requiring most of us to obtain insurance or pay a penalty – was upheld as a valid tax under the Constitution. At the same time, the Court may have limited future federal power by rejecting the argument that the mandate was consistent with the interstate commerce clause.
3. The stricken Medicaid provision signals the Court's willingness to protect states' rights vis a vis federalism.
Many of the particulars of Obamacare will now be finalized and implemented in the coming years. Scholars will be debating the effects of the decision, and lawyers will be citing and arguing from the decision, for years to come. What did you think of the Supreme Court’s big decision of 2012?
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