With Chief Justice Roberts writing the majority opinion, the U.S. Supreme Court voted 5-4 to uphold The Affordable Care Act on June 28, 2012. The rationale which Justice Roberts employed to leave in place the law’s most controversial feature – the so-called “individual mandate” – was a surprise to most, however. The majority actually struck down the constitutionality of the law under the Commerce Clause, which was the argument relied upon by the law’s drafters. The Court found that Congress’ authority to regulate interstate commerce did not extend so far as to allow it to require that all citizens purchase health insurance, and, for that reason, the Commerce Clause could not be the basis for such sweeping legislation. But in a lengthy opinion, Justice Roberts went on to save the law as a proper exercise of Congress’ taxing authority. He said, essentially, that the fine which was to be imposed on those who did not purchase insurance as required was tantamount to a tax. Since the Congress has extensive authority to tax, he reasoned, it could insist that those citizens who did not participate by buying private insurance could be taxed extra to reflect the likelihood that some or all of their health care would be borne by the tax-paying public at large. There will continue to be political arguments over whether the reason Justice Roberts did so was to provide a hook for those opposed to the law, but the reality is that, regardless, the law stands. People can now turn their focus to the changes in the health insurance industry which the ACA has already produced, and those which are to follow as it is fully implemented.
The approved health care changes will be staggered over a number of years. On July 1, 2010, when the bill was first passed, those uninsured with pre-existing conditions were provided with new options to receive insurance. September 2010 brought about many changes, like young adults being allowed to stay on their parents’ health insurance until age 26, insurers being forced to accept people who make errors on their health care forms, and free preventative care like mammograms being offered. January 1, 2011, saw seniors beginning to get discounts on prescription drugs. Changes not yet seen will begin in October of this year, when the transformation to paperless health care forms will start. Starting in 2014, people will be given choices for purchasing a health care plan if their employer does not provide them with one. If a person is found to be able to afford a health care plan, they will be required to purchase one or pay a tax. Also, more Americans will qualify for Medicaid, insurance coverage restrictions will be removed, and insurers will be prohibited from charging anyone a higher rate based on their health or gender.
For more information on this topic, visit: https://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/29/us/supreme-court-lets-health-law-largely-stand.html?pagewanted=1&_r=2&hp and/or https://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2012/06/health-care-timeline-what-happens-when/