By Virginia Farrell
Is not having insurance a crime?
Thursday, June 28th, the Supreme Court officially upheld the Obama administration’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. The act, which narrowly passed both the Senate and the House of Representatives along party lines in 2009 and 2010 respectively, enraged many people, causing many states, independent organizations, and individuals to challenge its constitutionality. The Supreme Court heard the case’s oral arguments in late March and finally came to a decision on Thursday. Obamacare was upheld.
What does this mean for the average person? The PPACA has many elements, including extended healthcare for individuals near poverty levels, protection for those with previous medical conditions, and increased taxes on high-income taxpayers. The most controversial aspect, however, has been the “individual mandate.”
The “individual mandate” is the PPACA provision that requires all individuals to be covered by some form of health insurance. Effective by January 1, 2014, individuals who choose not to buy health insurance will be fined an annual penalty of $95, or 1% of their income, whichever is higher. In 2016, that fine will rise to $695, or 2.5%. For families, the fine limit rises to $2,085.
Who will be affected by the penalties of the individual mandate? The Congressional Budget Office predicts that those who opt to remain uninsured will most likely be younger, single citizens. Of these younger citizens, those aged 19-25 will now be able to stay on their parents’ insurance plan, thanks to Obamacare, further decreasing the number of uninsured.
Outcry against this provision resulted in several cases brought against the PPACA, the summation of which the Supreme Court heard last March. In a somewhat backhanded decision, the usually conservative Chief Justice Roberts wrote for the majority:
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…Because the Constitution permits such a tax, it is not our role to forbid it, or to pass upon its wisdom or fairness.
The four liberal justices on the court joined Roberts in his decision, including Kagan, Sotomayor, Bader Ginsburg, and Breyer. Although the decision helps the liberal Democrats and Obama’s re-election campaign, many legal experts have called the decision conservative, citing its employment of judicial restraint. Had Roberts sided with the rest of the conservatives, the decision would have been close to a legislative act, something that Roberts, a proponent of judicial restraint, has sworn not to do.
What’s your opinion?