The US Supreme Court today ruled that the health care mandate is constitutional. It upheld the entire Affordable Care Act, with the exception that the federal government’s power to terminate states’ Medicaid funds is narrowly read. Justice John Roberts read the majority opinion.
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 US citizens to purchase health insurance by 2014.
In early 2011, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi challenged the health care law on behalf of Florida and 25 other states. In August 2011, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that parts of the law are unconstitutional, and in November 2011, the US Court of Appeals in Washington ruled the law unconstitutional.
The Supreme Court agreed to hear a legal challenge to the law, and in March the court held 3 days of oral arguments surrounding the constitutionality of the health care mandate.
The court considered four separate components of the law: 1) whether or not its individual mandate is constitutional; 2) whether the mandate is severable from the rest of the law; 3) whether the ACA levies a tax that must take effect before being challenged in court; 4) and whether the law’s proposed expansion of Medicaid is legal.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) said in a statement that it commended the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision to uphold the ACA.
“Today, the Supreme Court upheld a law that invests in children's health from the ground up,” AAP President Robert W. Block, MD, said in a press release. “The academy endorsed the ACA because it addresses the same ‘A-B-C’ goals that are entrenched in our mission and in our 82 years of child health advocacy: providing all children in this country with Access to health care services, age-appropriate Benefits to meet their unique needs, and high-quality, affordable health care Coverage.”
The AAP endorsed the law in 2010 and filed three amici curiae (friends of the court) briefs to the Supreme Court in support of the ACA’s Medicaid expansion, individual mandate and the mandate’s severability from the rest of the statute.
“Today is one for the history books,” Block said. “As pediatricians, our No. 1 goal is to keep children healthy, and we can now do so knowing that a landmark law has strong policies in place to prioritize children’s health needs and provide them with the access to care, age-appropriate benefits and coverage options they need and deserve.”
The court supported the law’s constitutionality and ruled that its tax does not need to take effect before being challenged in court.