The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld President Barack Obama’s health care reform law requiring non-exempted Americans to maintain a minimum level of health insurance or pay a tax penalty. The law is expected to extend health insurance to more than 30 million uninsured Americans, and to thereby reduce the cost of obtaining health care.
Chief Justice John Roberts, whose voted yes in the historic 5-4 decision, said that the mandate is constitutional only because the penalty “functions like a tax” and is therefore allowed under Congress’ taxing power.
In 2016, the first year the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will fully be in effect, the tax amounts to $695 for an individual and $2,085 for a family, or 2.5% of household income – whichever is larger, MSNBC reporters Richard Wolf and David Jackson reported.
The ruling did limit one significant portion of the law, which sought to expand Medicaid to cover millions more poor and disabled people, according to the Washington Post. The program is a joint federal-state effort, and the court said the law’s requirement that states rapidly extend coverage to new beneficiaries or lose existing federal payments was unduly coercive.
The same day the decision was handed down, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney vowed to repeal the law, calling it too expensive and a burden for job creators. Other Republicans joined him in denouncing the law.
“It’s up to the American people in the next election and their representatives to determine the fate of this law,” said House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis.