Obamacare is now definitively the “law of the land”. While this may not surprise those on the left, I suspect that even they were surprised by the Court’s reasoning.
Step 1 of the Court’s analysis was to determine if the case could even be heard as a result of the provisions of the Anti-Injunction Act. That law prohibits any challenge to a tax until that tax has to be paid. The Court found, at page 21,
The Affordable Care Act does not require that the penalty for failing to comply with the individual mandate be treated as a tax for purposes of the Anti-Injunction Act. The Anti-Injunction Act therefore does not apply to this suit, and we may proceed to the merits.
Thus, because the penalty isn’t called a tax, the action can proceed.
The next piece of the analysis was to determine whether the individual mandate could be justified under either the “necessary and proper clause” of the Constitution, or Congress’s power to regulate interstate commerce.
As to the argument that the mandate regulates interstate commerce, here is what we learn, at page 26,
The individual mandate, however, does not regulate existing commercial activity. It instead compels individuals to become active in commerce by purchasing a product, on the ground that their failure to do so affects interstate commerce. Construing the Commerce Clause to permit Congress to regulate individuals precisely because they are doing nothing would open a new and potentially vast domain to congressional authority.
And, at page 33,
The individual mandate forces individuals into commerce precisely because they elected to refrain from commercial activity. Such a law cannot be sustained under a clause authorizing Congress to “regulate Commerce”.
And further, at page 36,
Even if the individual mandate is “necessary” to the Act’s insurance reforms, such an expansion of federal power is not a “proper” means for making those reforms effective.
But, the analysis did not stop there. The Court then analyzed whether the individual mandate could be permitted under Congress’s power to tax.
The Court found (at page 43) that because the failure to purchase approved insurance is not unlawful, the “penalty” for failure to so purchase was really not a penalty after all, but, was instead a tax. And, because it is a tax, Congress had the power to impose the individual mandate under Congress’s taxing power.
I add, parenthetically, given this interpretation, there is little that Congress couldn’t compel you to do, by simply imposing a tax (called, of course, a penalty) on you if you don’t.
The Court did, however, strike down a provision of the law that allowed the Secretary of Health and Human Services to withhold all Medicaid funding from any state that refused to expand their Medicaid roles in compliance with the Act, calling said provision “coercive”.
So now, states are faced with a choice…greatly expand the money they spend on Medicaid, or simply allow their citizens to pay federal taxes to greatly expand the amount of money other states spend on Medicaid.
My head hurts.