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Compilation of analysis and reactions to Supreme Court decision on Obamacare

By on June 28, 2012

The Supreme Court has upheld the health care reform law’s individual mandate in an opinion authored by Chief Justice John Roberts and joined in by Justices Elena Kagan, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor.

Here is a compilation of the analysis and reaction to the decision:

Jonathan Adler: “Yet as I understand the ruling, the opinion does very little to enlarge the federal government’s power and, in key respects, reinforced federalism limitations on federal power.”

David Bernstein wonders if Roberts reversed himself: “Back in May, there were rumors floating around relevant legal circles that a key vote was taking place, and that Roberts was feeling tremendous pressure from unidentified circles to vote to uphold the mandate. Did Roberts originally vote to invalidate the mandate on commerce clause grounds, and to invalidate the Medicaid expansion, and then decide later to accept the tax argument and essentially rewrite the Medicaid expansion (which, as I noted, citing Jonathan Cohn, was the sleeper issue in this case) to preserve it? If so, was he responding to the heat from President Obama and others, preemptively threatening to delegitimize the Court if it invalidated the ACA? The dissent, along with the surprising way that Roberts chose to uphold both the mandate and the Medicaid expansion, will inevitably feed the rumor mill.”

Jonathan Chait argues that Roberts “is not willing to do is to impose his vision in one sudden and transparently partisan attack. Roberts is playing the long game.”

CNN: “Because the individual mandate has been upheld, and is essentially the funding behind everything else, this can be seen in large part as a major victory for President Obama.”

Lyle Denniston: “Since President Obama signed the new law, it has been understood by almost everyone that the expansion of health care coverage to tens of millions of Americans without it could work — economically — only if the health insurance companies were guaranteed a large pool of customers. The mandate to buy health insurance by 2014 was the method Congress chose to supply that pool.   It is not immediately clear whether the Court’s approach will produce as large a pool of new customers.”

Noah Feldman says the Supreme Court could have made history striking down President Obama’s health care law but instead chose the more cautious path.

“In the spirit of Justices Oliver Wendell Holmes and Felix Frankfurter, the court adopted the strategy of judicial restraint. The man most responsible for this comes as a surprise: Chief Justice John Roberts, a tried and tested conservative appointed by George W. Bush to the near-universal plaudits of the right. Roberts said in his confirmation hearings that he believed in judicial restraint. That has become a cliche, repeated by every would-be judge raising a right hand before a Senate committee. When the chips were down, Roberts did exactly what he had sworn to do under oath. He stayed the court’s hand and rejected activism.”

New York Times: “The decision was a striking victory for the president and Congressional Democrats, with a majority, including the conservative chief justice, John G. Roberts Jr., affirming the central legislative pillar of Mr. Obama’s term.”

Avik Roy: “Although a 5-4 majority held the mandate constitutional AS A TAX, a different 5-4 majority (Roberts being the only one in both majorities) held it unconstitutional as an exercise of Congress’ power to regulate interstate commerce. So, a ‘broccoli mandate’ would be unconstitutional as well. But, could they tax you for not eating broccoli?

Kevin Russell lays out the Court’s ruling on the Medicaid expansion: “(1) Congress acted constitutionally in offering states funds to expand coverage to millions of new individuals; (2) So states can agree to expand coverage in exchange for those new funds; (3) If the state accepts the expansion funds, it must obey by the new rules and expand coverage; (4) but a state can refuse to participate in the expansion without losing all of its Medicaid funds; instead the state will have the option of continue the its current, unexpanded plan as is.”

Greg Sargent: “The Supreme Court’s landmark decision upholding the individual mandate at the heart of Obamacare may be the start of a third great period in which the court has grappled with a question that continues to divide us as deeply as ever: What are the proper limits on federal power… Today the court declared that the federal government has the right to exercise its authority in order to protect Americans from the depredations of the ever increasing health insurance market.”

Nate Silver notes that “given the public’s confusion over the health care law, my view has been to keep it simple: Mr. Obama got the good headline here, and that is likely to be most of what the public reacts to.”

Tejinder Singh lays out the Court’s argument for considering the mandate a tax for constitutionality, but not for the Anti-Injunction Act, which prohibits courts from ruling on a tax before it is implemented: “The constitutional test looks not to the label on the law, but instead to the way that the law functions.  The test under the AIA, however, looks to whether Congress intended for the law to function as a tax. After today’s opinion, the test might be whether Congress actually uses the word ‘tax’ to describe the law.”

Washington Post: “The potentially game-changing, election-year decision — a major victory for the White House less than five months before the November elections — will help redefine the power of the national government and affect the health-care choices of millions of Americans.”

Matthew Yglesias takes a deeper look at the Medicaid expansion ruling: “So congress’ approach was essentially to make Red America an offer it couldn’t refuse—expansion could be done on very generous terms with the federal government picking up over 90% of the tab, but failure to expand would come with a hefty financial penalty in terms of lost matching Medicaid grants. Chief Justice Roberts joined with the other conservatives on the court to argue that this penalty—withdrawing of existing federal money unless states kicked in new money of their own—overstepped the constitutional bounds of the spending power. So now states have thecarrot to expand Medicaid but not the stick.”

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