SUPREME RELIEF: Healthcare reform is constitutional

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Supreme Court upholds landmark Affordable Care Act

Today, the Supreme Court of the United States handed down its much-anticipated ruling on the constitutionality of President Obama’s healthcare reform bill, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). The law stands, and its implementation can continue in earnest.

Opponents of the ACA hung their hopes for a Supreme ruling against it on the individual mandate, a provision requiring all Americans to have health insurance or pay a penalty. Writing for the five-justice majority, Chief Justice John Roberts called the penalty a tax and said Congress was well within its authority to levy it. From page 32 of the ruling (link opens PDF):

“Under the mandate, if an individual does not maintain health insurance, the only consequence is that he must make an additional payment to the IRS when he pays his taxes. See §5000A(b). That, according to the Government, means the mandate can be regarded as establishing a condition—not owning health insurance—that triggers a tax—the required payment to the IRS. Under that theory, the mandate is not a legal command to buy insurance. Rather, it makes going without insurance just another thing the Government taxes, like buying gasoline or earning income. And if the mandate is in effect just a tax hike on certain taxpayers who do not have health insurance, it may be within Congress’s constitutional power to tax.”

Click here to watch President Obama’s statement on the Supreme Court ruling that the Affordable Care Act is constitutional:

AFL-CIO statements on Supreme Court’s ruling

“We are pleased and relieved that the Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act,” said AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka in a statement released after the ruling was announced:

“With this decision, more than 105 million Americans will continue to benefit from the elimination of lifetime limits and the coverage of preventive services without cost-sharing, and more than 6 million young adults will remain covered by their parents’ health care plans. Seniors will continue to save money on prescription drugs as the Part D donut hole closes over the next eight years; already over 5 million seniors have saved $3.7 billion on prescriptions in 2010 and 2011. And insurance companies will not be able to deny coverage due to pre-existing conditions, charge women more or drop coverage for those who get sick.”

“That’s why we need the Affordable Care Act,” said MaryBe McMillan, Secretary-Treasurer of the NC State AFL-CIO in a statement, “because the insurance companies have chosen profits over people and working people have been left to choose between buying groceries or going to the doctor.”

“Thank goodness, with the Affordable Care Act, that will change. No longer will women be charged more for insurance than men. No longer will really sick patients be denied coverage. And no longer will desperate, uninsured families worry themselves sick over medical bills.

“For years, the health care debate has been defined by fear instead of fairness. We applaud the President and all those in Congress who listened not to the fear-mongers, the naysayers, and the insurance executives, but who instead listened to the millions of Americans who have struggled to protect their health and the health of those they love. To all the elected officials who supported health care reform, thank you for standing on the side of fairness.”

This victory for health care reform was only possible because we had a President in Barack Obama and a Democratic Congress (until 2011) who were willing to spend the political capital necessary to make the Affordable Care Act the law of the land.

“The election this November provides a clear choice between the President, who has stood for fairness and for working men and women, and Romney, who urges repealing health insurance protection for working families,” said Trumka. “We stand with the President.”

“To all the elected officials who supported health care reform, thank you for standing on the side of fairness,” said McMillan.

“For years, the health care debate has been defined by fear instead of fairness. We applaud the President and all those in Congress who listened not to the fear-mongers, the naysayers, and the insurance executives, but who instead listened to the millions of Americans who have struggled to protect their health and the health of those they love.”