Supreme Court Upholds Affordable Care Act

Families USA praise court decision. Rep. Andy Harris calls for the repeal of the law.

UPDATED (3:11 p.m.)—The Supreme Court, in a split decision, has upheld the individual mandate that requires the purchase of insurance as a tax.

The announcement allows the Affordable Care Act championed by President Barack Obama to move forward. It's expected that the law would offer health care to more than 30 million Americans, according to the Huffington Post.

In a 5-4 opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that the majority of the court rejected arguments that the law violated the Constitution's interstate commerce clause.

"The individual mandate forces individuals into commerce precisely because they elected to refrain from commercial activity," Roberts wrote. "Such a law cannot be sustained under a clause authorizing Congress to “regulate Commerce.”

But the court allowed the individual mandate to survive, saying it was with Congress' power to lay a penalty on those who choose not to buy insurance. The court said that penalty was essentially a tax.

Roberts wrote that the federal government "does not have the power to order people to buy health insurance" but that it did "have the power to impose a tax on those without health insurance.

"The Affordable Care Act’s requirement that certain individuals pay a financial penalty for not obtaining health insurance may reasonably be characterized as a tax," Roberts wrote. "Because the Constitution permits such a tax, it is not our role to forbid it, or to pass upon its wisdom or fairness."

In statement, Ron Pollack, Executive Director of Families USA praised the 193-page court decision.

"Today’s Supreme Court ruling is a clear, unambiguous, and complete victory for long-overdue health care reform. It sends an unmistakable message that the building of a better, fairer health care system will continue to move forward," Pollack said in the statement. "Implementing health reform will provide peace of mind for our families – the peace of mind that only comes when our loved ones are sure to receive the health care they need when they need it."

Douglas Hough, an associate professor at Johns Hopkins University’s Carrey Business School, argued the court’s decision to up hold the law is a positive for the health care industry.

He said that by adding or giving access to health care to about 26 million people it will increase demand for those services. 

"From a supply side you have physicians and hospitals getting more business, but also they’re going to get paid for care previously given, but either given on a pro-bono basis or a very reduced fee basis," Hough said.    

Hough, who has a book coming out titled Keep Your Government Hands Off My Medicare: What Behavioral Economics Can Tell Us About Health Care and Health Care Reform, said people make decisions in hot and cold states. The decision to buy or not to buy health insurance is made in a cold state, where they may be able to rationalize not buying health care. But when they need it they’re in a hot state and would do just about anything to have insurance.

“This was jaw dropping ruling. I don’t think anyone expected the Supreme Court would rule this way, this is a unique and amazing day in American jurisprudence,” Hough said

Richard Vatz, a professor of political rhetoric at Towson University, said his initial reaction was that the court’s decision validated fears that the judges make decisions first and then find a Constitutional rationale defending their stance.  However, he said Roberts’ vote in this instance was a case of upholding the Constitution over personal political ideals.

"It is indisputable in my mind that politically Chief Justice Roberts dislikes the individual mandate, but found it Constitutional," Vatz said. "This is an honorable, if impractical, vote but, again, the court’s mandate is to rule on the Constitutionality of laws."

Vatz questioned the motives of other judges regarding the ruling.

"The other justices whose votes reflects their policy preferences could have coincidentally found their politics and Constitutional adjudication identical, but it could not be the case for all eight of them," he said.

Joel Grossman, who teaches about the Supreme Court, American law and politics at , said the split of the justices was the most surprising element of the 5-4 decision. 

He said he expected Justice Anthony Kennedy and Justice John Roberts to come down on the same side of the issue, particularly because Roberts wanted to write the decision.

"Well, I think that [Roberts’s] decision to join the liberals, and uphold the law, reflects his view that it would be a terrible mistake for the court to invalidate the law,” Grossman said.

He also doubted the decision would be a landmark one, with a lasting impact on how future courts will interpret cases in relation to the Constitution. He said the split decision and plethora of opinions on the court will make it hard to determine what the decision means.

"I would say it’s an important decision, the impact politically is a blockbuster, but constitutionally it isn’t quite that," Grossman said.

Local Government Reaction

• In Howard County, Health Officer Dr. Peter Beilenson said Thursday that now that health insurance is mandatory, Howard County’s program to provide health services to uninsured residents would expire in January of 2014, according to a story on .

Beilenson also said that the nonprofit would now increase its focus on explaining how the health care law works for residents. 

“The … [law] is complex,” he said. “Because it’s been bandied about as a political football, nobody knows quite what it is. Now that the Supreme Court has ruled this is the law of the land, we can start explaining it to the average citizen what it means. 

“We will be both the educator and the navigator for enrollment.”

• Montgomery County officials enthusiastically supported the Supreme Court's decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act, according to a

Dr. Ulder Tillman, Montgomery County health officer, said shortly after the decision, "This is very exciting news for us."

, Dist. 39, Germantown, said, "I am thrilled."

Rachel Baye, Montgomery County reporter for the DC Examiner, tweeted from a meeting of the county Health and Human Services Committee:

"MoCo Council Health and Human Services committee just cheered ‪#scotus  decision on healthcare."

"Now the MoCo Council Health and Human Services committee is having a hard time getting back to their discussion. (Montgomery County Council President Roger) Berliner looks giddy."

• In Baltimore City Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake sent a message to the media celebrating the court's decision.

"This morning, our nation’s highest court upheld President Obama’s Affordable Care Act. This decision is a victory for the American people and allows us to move forward, enacting vital reforms that will expand coverage for tens of thousands of Marylanders. I want to once again thank President Obama for his support of meaningful health care reform and his commitment to the needs of vulnerable and underserved citizens.”

Maryland's Congress members and Senators Comment

Elected officials from around Maryland also weighed in on the decision:

• Sen. Ben Cardin called the decision "a win for the American people.

"Before this law, every responsible American with health insurance was subsidizing the health care needs of the rest," Cardin said in a statement. "That unfair arrangement will be coming to an end soon, as all Americans become part of a more efficient, more cost-effective health care system.”  

Cardin also on the decision on Patch.

• Republican Rep. Andy Harris, who is also a physician, said in a statement he was disappointed in the court's ruling and said he believes the bill is poor public policy.

“The Supreme Court’s decision determined the law’s constitutionality, not whether the law is good policy," Harris said in his statement. "Americans have already made up their mind on that issue.  A majority favor repealing the law."

Harris called for Congress to repeal the law.

"Today’s decision does not change the overwhelming opposition of the American public to Obamacare,"Harris said in his statement.

• Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, a Democrat, issued a statement saying the ruling "is not about a victory for Democrats or a loss for Republicans. It’s about providing all Americans with access to quality, affordable healthcare."

"The idea behind the individual mandate is to be responsible for your own health needs instead of burdening others, to make it easier for those who can’t afford insurance to find options in the private market and to help employers offer health benefits to workers," Ruppersberger said in the statement. "The Supreme Court has spoken and we now need to work together to implement the law of the land and achieve these goals.”


Did the court get it right? .

Stay with Patch throughout the day for updates and local reaction.

Local Editor Nayana Davis contributed to this story.

Arbutus Town Crier July 07, 2012 at 06:00 PM
Buck You just quoted Nature, Common sense! Apparently FRANK has not read these books but it seems he is good at copy and paste. BTW Frank pamphlet Agrarian Justice (1795) is the precursor to Social Security As for his death; Friendless............ Having no favors to bestow. Destitute of fortune. Addicted to utterance of truth and common sense was his life. Truth is by nature self-evident. As soon as you remove the cobwebs of ignorance that surround it, it shines clear .Mahatma Gandhi Declaration of Independence: "We hold these truths to be self-evident" Thomas Paine,The Founding Fathers, Mahatma Gandhi Are communist?
Arbutus Town Crier July 07, 2012 at 06:13 PM
I was bold in the pursuit of knowledge, never fearing to follow truth and reason to whatever results they led, and bearding every authority which stood in their way. Thomas Jefferson
Steve July 07, 2012 at 06:15 PM
That's the only way Republicans get elected. They have to play the Fear card and create Boogeymen whether is is a "Muslim from Kenya in the White House, "Illegal Aliens", "Obammy's Gunna Git Yor Guns!", "Death Panels" or locally "Mobs of Black Youths" They have to get the old, angry, white people all stirred up and scared.
Arbutus Town Crier July 07, 2012 at 06:36 PM
Correct David, To understand the Documents as Declaration of Independence, And Constitution you have to look into the mind set of the founding Fathers. if you read Thomas Paine then read these documents you will not be blind, the laws are based on Nature,Common Sense,reasoning and self-evident! One Supreme Being that we all in agree on. (*BTW the word GOD is a generic name) A country that can flourish in other beliefs except one group.Its that Simple. But the US history in schools are being indoctrination of one world order the UN wants Americans to be disarmed, one health care, etc Writing is on the wall *go to the library and ask a book on God, the answer will be which one?
Doug July 07, 2012 at 06:38 PM
The Dems get elected by refusing to admit the obvious, or lying. Then the naive follow them...like screaming the race card when someone identifies reality, like the mobs of black youth, killing inner harbor business, or calling Obamacare something other than a tax. Baltimore City and every other major city in desperation in this country have been controlled by Dems for decades... look where it got them. The Dem party used to be for the "working people" now it's the party for those who don't want to work
Patrick Campbell July 07, 2012 at 06:42 PM
http://www.usconstitution.net/consttime.html History repeats itself, coiling down into the future.....
Locally Involved July 07, 2012 at 07:44 PM
The Affordable Care Act: 1. Invented by conservatives (The Heritage Foundation) 2. Promoted by conservatives (Newt Gingrich, 90s, as an alternative to "Hillary-care") 3. Implemented by a conservative (Gov. Romney of MA) 4. Upheld by a conservative (Chief Justice Roberts) 5. And, now, denounced by conservatives. Tax, penalty, fine, toll - what does it matter? If you have healthcare, you don't pay a fine. People seem not to have any problem paying for insurance against uninsured motorists. No problem paying highway tolls (which is a tax for using the road. People who don't use the road, don't pay the toll). No problem paying $1 or more on cigarettes (again, you don't smoke, you don't pay the tax). So why now such a problem? Doesn't matter what you call it - you only pay it if you don't have or CANNOT obtain health insurance. If you're unemployed or lack the income, there are waivers. So, 'nuff of this tax stuff. This is Potomac - we have health insurance. We're not going to pay an additional tax. In fact, the $1000 or so of our yearly premium dollars will be covered by those who refuse to obtain health insurance. Of course, doubtful the health insurance companies will reduce your premiums. So take it up with your insurance company.
Locally Involved July 07, 2012 at 07:46 PM
From The Motley Fool today... 3 Health-Care Misconceptions That Never Die http://www.fool.com/investing/general/2012/07/06/3-health-care-misconceptions-that-never-die-.aspx
FIFA July 07, 2012 at 08:11 PM
Tim, you are mostly wrong. Amazing how we forget 11 years ago. http://usgovinfo.about.com/library/weekly/aa052701a.htm Some democrats, typical Blue Dogs went with the Republicans in idiocy that will remain with us unless Obama lets these stupid tax cuts expire..
FIFA July 07, 2012 at 08:12 PM
Versus the party of the rich, Doogles?
Arbutus Town Crier July 07, 2012 at 09:46 PM
Zoobie, More to the story, Vietnam same group
Zoobie July 08, 2012 at 03:04 AM
You just make it up to suit you 're own minds eye. Spoken like a true Liberal !
Locally Involved July 08, 2012 at 03:20 AM
@zoobie - What's made up?
Zoobie July 08, 2012 at 03:37 AM
I'm a member of The Heritage Foundation, and this act wasn't our work. You won't find Pelosi, Reid or Dumbama anywhere on our membership roles. Now, leave me alone, I only deal in Truths !
Locally Involved July 08, 2012 at 03:47 AM
@zoobie - From the WSJ, Feb of this year: Heritage Rewrites History The think tank proposed the individual mandate years before Clinton took office. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204369404577211161144786448.html Then you are most familiar that in 1989 "Critical Issues" monograph titled "A National Health System for America." (The Heritage website lists the publication date as Jan. 2, 1989). As an example, Heritage first embraced the individual mandate as an "alternative" to President Clinton's "universal health care plan." Cognitive disonance appears to be rampant with conservative ideology.
Locally Involved July 08, 2012 at 03:49 AM
@zoobie - Lastly, I have my doubts to your affliation with the Heritage Foundation as using a derogatory term to refer to the president is not representative of that organization. Members may disagree, but they would not be disrespectful with such language. If you wish to be left alone to your own *truths*, then I suggest not posting comments as it only invites engagement.
Steve July 08, 2012 at 04:00 AM
"Heritage Foundation" That's funny. They are on par with the KKK.
Steve July 08, 2012 at 04:05 AM
The Heritage Foundation was one of the groups who led the ignorant and uneducated in Maryland to sigh the Petition against the DREAM Act. http://imagine2050.newcomm.org/2010/12/17/heritage-foundation-comes-under-fire-from-former-allies-in-the-anti-immigrant-movement/ THey say "Jump!" and the local yokels say "How High!"
Locally Involved July 08, 2012 at 04:07 AM
@Steve - there are serious doubts Zoobie is a member of the heritage, but the KKK, very possible! :-) The hateful, vitriolic language by those on the far right strongly indicates definite racial bias. Tho' of course, due to their strong cognitive disonance, it would never be acknowledged. Sad. What century is this?
Locally Involved July 08, 2012 at 04:20 AM
@steve Good news is that an educated voter is a conservative's worst nightmare.
Zoobie July 08, 2012 at 04:25 AM
I wondered how long it would take for the language tto become personal. Accusing someone of membership in the KKK is pretty 'trite' when compared with The Heritage Foundation. However, now knowing the mental capacity of the respondent, I'll just pass it off as ignorance. If you think 'Dumbama' is a racial slur, you're wrong. That's not what I'm about. But defending a Bill from the likes oh Pelosi, Reid and Dumbama tell exactly what you're about. Socialism and the Free Ride. Good Day !
Locally Involved July 08, 2012 at 04:39 AM
Zoobie the word I used was ' derogatory' not ' racial' as a general reference to the nature of the conservative views expressed on this topic. Appears you are simply taking it personal. Good night.
de. nielson July 08, 2012 at 05:57 AM
oh buzzy thanks for all your input
de. nielson July 08, 2012 at 06:05 AM
oh yes so involved
Doug July 08, 2012 at 11:12 AM
not all tribes have a system.. but you misseds the point regardless.
Doug July 08, 2012 at 11:14 AM
Rich? I'm a conservative independent and certainly not rich. But the point is... look at history. The party of government dependency has controlled every major city for decades, and nothing has changed.
Arbutus Town Crier July 08, 2012 at 04:06 PM
Time to look forward, Your are 100% correct, and It's going to be nasty. The ignorant ones will be used. 18-21 have not experienced life! They believe what is told to them, Some will know better. Time will tell...............
Arbutus Town Crier July 08, 2012 at 04:22 PM
Zoobie, Encyclopedia Britanica is now owned by the ones that has been changing real history, Its the (militarily order) behind the scene nothing to do with religion AT ALL! We could go into that but this is not the time or place we only have to Nov.
John Rieger July 14, 2012 at 10:53 PM
Doug, It was W. that said and I quote " I'm a uniter, not a divider ". Please explain to me how President Obama is supposed unite the people of this great land when there are clearly too many racist out there! Now I know you'll tell me that I'm just playing the race card like all other liberals but face reality! It's right before our very eyes. Where were the teabaggers prior to the 08 eclection? Why all of sudden did these people care about our deficit when they were clueless before? If you ask me...I'm very pleased to see these people come crawling out of the woodwork for it only shines the light on what conservatives have been hiding for decades and that is simply, they don't care for anyone but thier own.
Doug July 15, 2012 at 10:41 AM
John.. First. yes, you are just playing the race card. 99% of all conservatives don't give a hoot about race, and would vote for Allen West in a second. It's the ideology of government control of everything in our lives, which most conservatives hate, and the entitlements of the left with no personal responsibility attached. Obama vowed to unite, and he's done nothing but divide. For instance, the majority of people in every poll last year said no to Obamacare, but he pushed it through anyway. Does that unite ??


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