In a historic decision Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the individual insurance mandate, the central provision of President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act.
The 5-4 majority ruling, written by Chief Justice John Roberts, held that the mandate—which requires virtually every American to have health insurance or pay a penalty—is a constitutional under Congress's power to tax, according to multiple media reports.
The mandate, Roberts wrote, "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."
Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act on March 23, 2010. The mandate—which will go into effect in 2014—was included because most people in the U.S. get their insurance through employers, leaving millions of people uncovered.
Pressuring people to buy into a plan and getting more businesses to offer policies will give insurance companies more people to spread the risk, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
Many are calling the decision a major victory for the White House, coming only five months before the November elections.
Reaction from State and Local Officials
U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL):
"While I respect the Court’s decision, the health care law threatens our economic recovery by raising taxes, imposing new regulations and creating a drag on the economy," said Senator Kirk. "Congress should repeal the health care law and replace it with common sense, centrist reforms that give Americans the right to buy insurance across state lines and expand coverage without raising taxes, while blocking the government from coming between patients and their doctors."
U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL)
"This decision means that we can move forward to address the unsustainable increase in health care costs and expand the protection of health insurance coverage to over 30 million Americans – including millions in Illinois. Those who opposed any change in the law and dismissed the constitutionality of this measure were rejected by the actions of Congress and the opinion of the Chief Justice.
“It is also noteworthy that after two controversial, activist decisions in Bush v. Gore and Citizens United, the Chief Justice, in both the Arizona immigration law and the Affordable Care Act cases, appears to be working to re-establish the political neutrality of this court. That is a positive development.”
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