Justice Anthony Kennedy, the court's swing vote, dissented, reading from the bench that he and three conservative justices believe "the entire Act before us is invalid in its entirety."
Twenty six states sued over the law, arguing that the individual
mandate, which requires people to buy health insurance or face a fine
starting in 2014, was unconstitutional. Opponents cast the individual
mandate as the government forcing Americans to enter a market and buy a
product against their will, while the government countered that the law
was actually only regulating a market that everyone is already in, since
almost everyone will seek health care at some point in his or her life.
Before oral arguments in March, polls of Supreme Court experts and
scholars showed that most believed the mandate would be upheld as an
exercise of Congress' power to regulate interstate commerce. But after
justices seemed deeply skeptical of the mandate in oral arguments in
March, the consensus flipped, with most experts guessing the court would
strike down the law.
House Republicans have vowed to repeal the entire law, though it's
unlikely the Democratic-controlled Senate would let that happen, and
this decision will most likely slow momentum for that move.
In a victory for President Barack Obama, the Supreme Court decided to
uphold his signature health care law's individual insurance mandate in a
5-4 decision, upending speculation after hostile-seeming oral arguments
in March that the justices would overturn the law. The mandate has been
upheld as a tax, according to SCOTUSblog,
with Chief Justice John Roberts joining the liberal wing of the court.
Tom Goldstein of SCOTUSblog says Roberts' vote "saved' the Affordable
Though the sweeping, 1,000-page plus law passed more than two years
ago, much of it will not go into effect until 2014. That's when states
will have to set up their own health insurance exchanges, Medicaid will
be expanded by 16 million low-income people, and Americans will have to
buy health insurance (for many, with a government subsidy) or pay a
penalty of 1 percent of their income to the IRS. Employers who have more
than 50 employees and don't offer insurance will also begin to face a
penalty. Insurers will no longer be able to turn away people with
preexisting conditions, or charge people higher premiums based on their
gender or health.
Only about 6 percent of the population will actually be required to
buy health insurance or face a tax under the mandate, since most people
already have coverage or will get it through Medicare, according to the
Many of the more popular provisions of the law have already gone into
effect, including a regulation saying insurers have to let children
stay on their parents' plans until they are 26 years old, which 2.5
million Americans have already taken advantage of. Insurers can also no
longer turn away children with preexisting conditions, and sick
uninsured people can buy coverage in high-risk pools set up by the
Despite this intentional front-loading of consumer friendly, popular
provisions of the law, the American public is pretty evenly split on the
law's benefit. Slightly more people wanted the Supreme Court to strike
down the law than uphold it in a recent poll.