San Diego ACLU Says Health Care Decision “Especially Welcome” for Women, Minorities

The U.S. Supreme Court decision today upheld the linchpin of the Affordable Care Act by ruling 5-4 that the government can tax individuals who choose not to buy health insurance.

The principal opinion was written by Chief Justice John Roberts.

  • Five members of the Court agreed that the requirement that individuals either purchase health insurance or make an additional payment on their federal income taxes – the so-called individual mandate – was a constitutionally permissible tax imposed on those who did not purchase health insurance.
  • The individual mandate was thus upheld even though five members of the Court, including Chief Justice Roberts, rejected the government’s principal argument that the individual mandate was a proper exercise of Congress’ power under the Commerce Clause.
  • Five members of the Court also agreed that Congress could withhold new Medicaid funds from states that did not expand their Medicaid coverage as required by the new health care law, but could not withhold funds for pre-existing Medicaid programs.

“Today’s decision is especially welcome because the Court recognizes that Congress has the constitutional authority to fix a health care system that does not work for millions of Americans,” said Kevin Keenan, executive director of the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties. “The ruling is especially important for disadvantaged minorities, who are more likely to be uninsured, and for women, who are more likely to suffer gaps and discrimination in their health care coverage. ”

With today’s ruling as guidance, the ACLU trusts that the states will recognize the needs of the country’s more vulnerable populations and accept the additional funds that the federal government is offering under the new law to expand Medicaid coverage for needy individuals.