The U.S. Supreme Court today ruled 5-4 that the mandate in the Affordable Care Act for all U.S. citizens to purchase health insurance is constitutional. The court’s decision essentially upheld the entire health care reform law.
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 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 challenged the constitutionality of the insurance mandate. The Supreme Court heard 3 days of oral arguments in March.
The impact of the law on ophthalmology remains unclear, John B. Pinto, OSN Practice Management Section Editor, said in an interview with Ocular Surgery News.
“It was hard enough to understand the potential impact on ophthalmology of Obamacare as a completely intact piece of legislation. It’s even harder to know at this moment … what is going to happen now as the legal and political wheels continue to spin,” Pinto said.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, issued a statement on his website shortly after the court ruling.
“The president’s health care law is hurting our economy by driving up health costs and making it harder for small businesses to hire,” Boehner said. “Today’s ruling underscores the urgency of repealing this harmful law in its entirety.”
The American Academy of Ophthalmology also issued a statement, which read:
“The American Academy of Ophthalmology is committed to working with Congress on solutions to expand coverage for the more than 40 million uninsured individuals in the United States, and simultaneously push for key changes in the health care law that protect patients’ access to quality vision care.”
See also: "Ophthalmology anticipates Supreme Court ruling on Affordable Care Act," posted June 22