David G. Savage
The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of President Obama’s health-care law Thursday, ruling the government may impose tax penalties on people who do not have health insurance.
The court’s long-awaited ruling rejected a broad legal attack on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act brought by Republican state officials and the National Federation of Independent Business.
The legal challenge focused on the law’s so-called mandate that all must have insurance by 2014 or pay a tax penalty.
The administration defended this requirement under Congress’s power to regulate inter-state commerce. The challengers insisted the mandate was unprecedented and unconstitutional because the federal government would be forcing Americans to buy a private product.
The ruling was not a total victory for the Obama administration.
Chief Justice Roberts, who wrote the opinion for a 5-4 majority, said the required expansion of Medicaid violates states’ rights may be unconstitutional.
“The states are given no choice in this case. They must either accept a basic change in the nature of Medicaid or risk losing all Medicaid funding,” he wrote.
He said the federal government cannot require the states to follow this part of the law.
Robert’s opinion was joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.
Justice Anthony Kennedy delivered a dissent for Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr.