The Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) Primer

There is a glut of information out there on the Supreme Courts ruling on the ACA. We've got a few of the key points everyone is talking about with the gist of why the they are important. Take a read and become the most informed one at your barbecue this Fourth-O-July. 

Follow the links for more in depth information.

First, a explanation of what the ruling was- via SCOTUSblog

  • The key to the ACA was the individual mandate. The government argued that the mandate was legal under the Commerce Clause. "Five Justices – the Chief Justice and Justices Kennedy, Scalia, Thomas, and Alito – all rejected that argument. But the government still won, because a different set of five Justices – the Chief Justice, and Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan – agreed that the mandate was constitutional, but for a different reason."


Why did the Court not uphold the individual mandate under the Commerce Clause? via WSJ Law Blog

  • Chief Justice John Roberts argued that the Commerce Clause is used to regulate commercial activity. But the individual mandate "instead compels individuals to become active in commerce by purchasing a product." This interpretation limits Congresses power under the Commerce Clause. 


Since the mandate was not upheld under the Commerce Clause, it was ruled that the punishment for not complying with the individual mandate is a "tax" not a "penalty"- via Forbes

  • Although the language of the bill classified it as a penalty, the fact that there were no "negative legal consequences to not buying health insurance, beyond requiring a payment to the IRS", effectively make it a tax. 


Calling the consequence a "tax" creates political parallels to the Marbury vs. Madison decision- via The Atlantic

  • The result of Marbury v. Madison was that the Supreme Court under Chief Justice Marshall left "Jefferson absolutely nothing he could use politically: the opinion clearly rebuked his actions, but it didn't give him an order he could defy."
  • The ACA (ObamaCare) decision undermines the idea that SCOTUS is a conservative Court out of control. But Obama can't claim full victory either since the decision states that congress (and the President) overreached in trying to justify the law under the Commerce Clause. "Worse yet, it calls the mandate something that Democrats didn't want it to be: a tax."


Don't forget that the Supreme Court also handed down an important free speech ruling this term too- via Above the Law


  • The government argued that it could "regulate, and indict, anyone who lies for any reason". In United States v. Alvarez the Supreme Court ruled the "Stolen Valor Act" unconstitutional.



Happy 4th of July everybody!