As reporters and bloggers around the country dissect this landmark opinion and speculate about its immediate and future impact, SBM Blog will break it down issue by issue, in simple, plain English, beginning with the biggest and most controversial issue - the individual mandate.
Although the decision is lengthy, the holding is fairly simple - Congress has the authority under its constitutional taxing power to require almost all Americans to purchase health insurance by 2014 or pay a penalty. Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the 5-4 majority, said the shared responsibility payment may, for constitutional purposes, be considered a tax.
SCOTUSblog writer Lyle Denniston may have said it first, and best, when he wrote that "the Court did not sustain it as a command for Americans to buy insurance, but as a tax if they don’t."
In arriving at this holding, the Chief Justice rejected the government's primary arguments that Congress had the authority to impose the mandate via its power under the Commerce Clause and the Necessary and Proper Clause. He found that the former argument failed because allowing Congress to regulate individuals because they are doing nothing would open a new and potentially vast domain to congressional authority. And the latter argument failed, he said, because in each of the Court's prior cases upholding laws under the Necessary & Proper Clause involved exercises of authority derivative of, and in service to, a granted power.
In other words, as Denniston said, "Don't call it a mandate - it's a tax."
Check back with SBM blog as we break down the remaining issues.
Meanwhile, enjoy the debate and speculation by clicking on any of the following:
Posted by State Bar staff