Supreme Court Upholds Health Care Reform
Ruling sparks celebrations and heated debate
On Thursday, the Supreme Court ruled that a key piece of President Barack Obama's health care reform law was constitutional.
The law, officially called the Affordable Health Care Act (ACA), includes a component called the individual mandate. The individual mandate requires Americans to have health coverage by 2014. If they don't, they will have to pay a fine.
ACA and the individual mandate were challenged by private citizens, interest groups, and nearly 30 states as unconstitutional. Critics of the law call it "Obamacare" and claimed that Congress, which passed ACA, did not have the authority to penalize citizens for not buying something like health insurance.
But the Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, upheld the individual mandate. The Court ruled that the individual mandate was constitutional based on Congress' authority to impose taxes.
"The Affordable Care Act's requirement that certain individuals pay a financial penalty for not obtaining health insurance may reasonably be characterized as a tax," Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the Court's majority opinion. "Because the Constitution permits such a tax, it is not our role to forbid it, or to pass upon its wisdom or fairness."
Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Elena Kagen, Sonia Sotomayor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Stephen Breyer voted to uphold the individual mandate. Justices Anthony Kennedy, Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia, and Clarence Thomas voted to reject it.
With the constitutionality of the individual mandate affirmed, the country will begin seeing major changes to the health care industry and citizens' access to health insurance.
Political Fallout and Heated Debate
Another consequence of the ruling is the political debate around the law has heated up.
After the ruling was announced Thursday, Democrats were quick to claim victory.
"Children will no longer be denied health insurance due to a pre-existing condition, effective immediately," Eric Gray, Communications Director of the Georgia Democratic Party, told the Kids Press Corps. "Adults will no longer be denied health insurance due to a pre-existing condition, effective in 2014. We all deserve high-quality health care that we can all afford, and today brings this goal to reality."
Critics of the law disagreed with the Supreme Court's ruling.
Tom Price is a Republican Congressman from Georgia and a physician. He looked at the ruling from the point of view of a doctor.
"I spent 20 years taking care of patients, and I think that the law itself really makes it much more difficult for doctors to take care of patients, so I oppose the law," Price said. "We'll continue to [work to] repeal the law and put in place responsible reforms we think are more respectful to patients."
The presidential candidates have spent a lot of time speaking about the health care law on the campaign trail. But after the Supreme Court decision, it immediately took on greater importance in the campaign.
President Obama spoke about the ruling Thursday afternoon. He viewed it as a validation of perhaps the major accomplishment of his first term.
"The highest Court in the land has now spoken," Obama said. "We will continue to implement this law. And we'll work together to improve on it where we can. I did it because I believed it was good for the country. I did it because I believed it was good for the American people."
Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney also addressed the ruling Thursday.
In his speech, Romney said repealing the Affordable Health Care Act would be one of his highest priorities if elected president.
"What the [Supreme] Court did not do on its last day in session, I will do on my first day if elected President of the United States," Romney said. "And that is I will act to repeal Obamacare. Obamacare was bad policy yesterday. It's bad policy today. Obamacare was bad law yesterday. It's bad law today. If we want to get rid of Obamacare, we're going to have to replace President Obama. My mission is to make sure we do exactly that."
While the Supreme Court has ruled that the Affordable Health Care Act and the individual mandate are constitutional, the debate is not over. It will only heat up more as the country inches closer to Election Day.
More about the Affordable Health Care Act from the Scholastic News Kids Press Corps and Scholastic News Online:
The Affordable Health Care Act: How We Got Here (June 29, 2012)
Health Care Bill Now Law (March 24, 2010)
President Signs Health Care Reform Bill Into Law (March 24, 2010)
Health Care on the Road (March 26, 2010)
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