U.S. Supreme Court Historic Health Care Ruling: Implication for the General Elections


Keywords and Terms: Affordable Care Act; Chief Justice Roberts; 5-4 Vote Spread; United States Congress; Commerce Clause; Congress’s Power to Tax; CNN; FOXNEWS; Rush-to-Judgement; A Good Day for Democrats and America.

Exasperating! That’s what some Republicans call it. Too Exasperating! All manner of Republicans were frustrated when they heard that the United States Supreme Court upheld the Patients Protection and Affordable Care Act in its entirety in a 5-4 Vote spread. In an unimaginable and unthinkable way, Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the liberal wing of the court, agreeing that the United States Congress acted within its powers to raise and collect tax. And since the core mandate in the law, requiring Americans to purchase health insurance or pay a penalty could be construed as effectively a tax, the United States Congress is within its power to pass this law in 2010. The surprise for many critics of the law came from the fact that the law was not distinctively separated on the Commerce clause for rejection; rather, the United States Supreme Court upheld the law based on the settled issue that Congress has a broad power to levy taxes.

Regardless of who was to be impacted and what form of cynicism would emanate from Supreme court’s decision, the justices took their responsibility seriously and very poignantly, voted to strike a piece of the law as unconstitutional; however, ruling the lynch-pin of the act, the mandate, constitutional as it can get. The supporting Justices, John Roberts, Elena Kagan, Stephen Breyer, Ruth Ginsburg, and Sonia Sotomayor had issues with the possibility of the federal government expanding the Medicare program to reach more people through arm-twisting of states or design to bring them into fold. The following justices ruled against the law: Anthony Kennedy; Samuel Alito; Clarence Thomas and Antonio Scalia. Although the federal government was going to pick up the bill at 100% under this expansion of the Medicaid program at the state level, with state picking up 15% of the bill after about two years, the court was still not impressed and believes this provision, is heavy handed. Chief Justice Roberts, like other supporting justices, felt strongly that this provision may violate the constitution, as the Federal Government had the upper hand to punish the state that refuses to participate in the new dispensation under the new law. In effect, subscribing Justices to Patients Protection and Affordable Care Act still believe that this aspect of the law, taking away Medicaid funding in totality from states that refuse to participate fully, unconstitutional.

Although the complete decision from the highest court in the land seems not to have thrilled too many Republicans, there are reasons to believe that it was a triumph for many Democrats and millions of Americans without health care insurance. A clear and pure understanding of why Justice Roberts sided with the liberal wing of the U.S Supreme Court on this occasion, would probably never be known, for it is difficult to know what transpires completely in the mind of a judge in a landmark case like this. Although there were clues that this case could go either way after the oral arguments before the court about three months ago, the rows of critics who were ready to thumb down Obama’s Administration, as always showing disregard for the constitution, were rather huge and unbelievable. Peering through the rows of placards from demonstrators before the courts, one could have accepted, if the court had ruled against the law; and this, many Democrats were presumably afraid of, but were still willing to live with in a difficult circumstance like this. 


To appreciate the difficult dynamics of this ruling, while the US Supreme was releasing its judgment as upholding the law,  two huge cable networks, CNN and FOXNEWS notably, were reporting that the court had ruled the law unconstitutional. It was actually an embarrassment and nightmare for the networks which their audience will never forget; and this actually, shows how dicey the anticipated decision from the court. It is reasonable to construe that cable news networks are largely biased and are actually, in the business of rushing-to-report news that is in fact erroneous. It is also reasonable to note that on this occasion, unlike the expectations of many in the right, the United States Supreme Court defaulted on good reason and judgement as it articulated its grounds for ruling in favor of the constitutionality of the Patients Protection and Affordable Care Act.

As far as we know today, the court draws the distinction between activity and inactivity, as it ruled to accept the constitutionality of all the provisions in the law, except one. The distinction was likened to participation and none participation on a line item tax code; and, penalizing those who are not participating or remaining inactive with respect to the tax provision. Interestingly, the act was developed and discussed at both the House and Senate Tax sub-committee; and, this probably vindicate the construction of the mandate as a tax as construed in the lead opinion of Chief Justice Roberts while upholding the law. The legitimacy of the United Supreme Court under Chief Justice Roberts was actualized with the decision that was handed down and never again will a President assume that his nomination to the highest court in the land, with a preconceived ideological leaning, will always rule in favor of the ideological ground.

Chief Justices John Roberts established his independence with three presuppositions in  opinion that would now be remembered as the foundation of the affirmation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act: 1) The individual mandate cannot be upheld as an exercise of Congress’s power under the Commerce Clause; 2) That clause authorizes Congress to regulate interstate commerce, not to order individuals to engage in it; and, 3) In this case, however, it is reasonable to construe what Congress has done as increasing taxes on those who have a certain amount of income, but choose to go without health insurance; such legislation is within Congress’s power to tax. With these statements, Chief Justice Roberts probably changed the faith of close to three million Americans without really knowing it! If you ask any layman to decipher his presuppositions, they will be as mystified as many people; yet it is true, the Patients Protection and Affordable Care Act, is constitutional and will remain that way for a long time to come; so sayeth the Chief!

Once again, on the totality of the decision, Democrats were thrilled, while Republicans imagined this day was not good for freedom and all the principle that this country hold dearly; with some of the republicans labeling the honorable Chief Justice, a traitor. At the State level, Washington Sate Governor Christine Gregoire inferred the following as a result of the affirmation of the law as constitutional: 1) Fifty thousand more Washingtonians will have health care insurance coverage; 2) Sixty thousand Senior Citizens will benefit from continued prescription drug coverage benefits; 3) Three hundred thousand Washingtonians will be able to take advantage of the health care exchange that is to be mounted under the law; and 4) Increased adult children coverage; among others. Other state governors believe that the law is a good law and will implement it as rapidly as possible. Unfortunately, Republican presumptive Nominee, Mitt Romney still believes the Affordable Care Ac is a bad law and promises to repeal it. Many observers of congressional lawmaking insist that Mitt Romney will have much of a harder time repealing this law, as there are many provisions in the law that Americans love and would hardly part with, since the inception of the law and actually benefiting from the largesse of the law.

At the National level, the upholding of the law, presents more appeals to ardent supporters and opens up the opportunity for conviction of those who had their reservations before now. The magic of the constitutionality of the mandate is that it creates in the minds of skeptics, the reality that this law is going to be around for some while. While there were some reservations in the tone from Mitt Romney, regarding the upholding of the law, he still accepts that the court has ruled the law constitutional. Unfortunately, he has made the repeal of the law as the first thing he will like to do, once he is elected the President of the United Sates. An ambition that many Democrats are saying, not so fast, Governor Romney! For Democrats, the upholding of the law as constitutional ensures that at least 90% of Americans will have access to health care insurance, no one will be turned down for pee-existing condition and more adult children will remain on their parent’s health care insurance. Effectively, more lives will be saved, money saved and the Medicare program will work out for states that have chosen to participate for the betterment of their citizens. For all these and more reasons, the affirmation of the law is a good day for America and Americans, who believe that we all deserve some healthy future.



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