The US Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the mandate in the Affordable Care Act for all US citizens to purchase health insurance is constitutional. The court’s decision essentially upheld the entire health care reform law.
“Most of us in the HIV community are quite elated that the court ruled in this manner,” Jim Raper, DSN, nurse practitioner and director of the HIV clinic at the University of Alabama at Birgmingham, told Infectious Disease News. “This helps continue the health care reform moving forward in a very positive way. We look forward to the time when patients have greater access to the health care that they need, and that providers of that health care get reimbursed for the care that they are providing.”
Chief Justice John Roberts read the majority opinion, which stated that a penalty for not purchasing health insurance should be treated as a tax that Congress has the right to levy according to its constitutionally sanctioned power of taxation.
“The Supreme Court ruling upholding the Affordable Care Act as the law of the land is a significant victory for people with HIV infection and the public health of our nation,” Judith A. Aberg, MD, FIDSA, chair of the HIV Medicine Association, said in a press release. “The Affordable Care Act corrects the injustices of our current health system, which often denies health insurance coverage to those who need it most. Too many of our patients have died prematurely despite the availability of effective HIV treatment due to late diagnosis and poor access to health care services.”
The court also ruled that a provision requiring states to comply with new eligibility requirements for Medicaid or risk losing their funding is constitutional. States only lose new funds, not all of their funding, if they do not comply with the new requirements, according to the opinion.
“Nothing in our opinion precludes Congress from offering funds under the Affordable Care Act to expand the availability of health care and requiring that states accepting such funds comply with the conditions on their use,” Roberts stated in the opinion. “What Congress is not free to do is to penalize states that choose not to participate in that new program by taking away their existing Medicaid funding.”
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Barack Obama in March 2010. Twenty-six states have challenged the constitutionality of the law’s mandate for all U.S. citizens to purchase health insurance by 2014.