The United States Supreme Court has voted 5-4 to uphold the the ‘Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act,’ which is colloquially known as ‘ObamaCare,’ including the controversial individual mandate. The court also voted to limit, but not invalidate, some of the law’s Medicaid provisions.
The court ruled that the mandate is actually a tax, and therefore falls under the federal government’s broad taxing authorities. The argument put forth by the court is that the mandate is not actually a mandate, per se, since citizens still have a legal option to not comply with it and pay a fine (now redefined as a tax) instead. So, in short, citizens have the option to buy health insurance and pay lower taxes (i.e., not pay the fine), or not buy health insurance and pay higher taxes (i.e., pay the fine). Notably, the court also ruled that the mandate would not have been constitutional under the commerce clause.
It is unclear what limits, if any, the court has left in-place on the extent of federal authorities. Under the precedent now established by this ruling, it would appear that the federal government can require any action or inaction on the part of its citizens, so long as the punishment for failure to comply is a monetary fine (now redefined as a tax) rather than criminal charges. For example, imagine a federal requirement that all families purchase a Chevrolet Volt or pay a $60,000 fine. It appears that this would now be perfectly legal.
The majority opinion was issued by Chief Justice John Roberts, joined by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Justice Stephen Breyer, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, and Justice Elena Kagan. A dissenting opinion was issued by Justice Antonin Scalia, Justice Anthony Kennedy, Justice Clarence Thomas, and Justice Samuel Alito.