On Thursday, the last day of the 2011-2012 Supreme Court session, Chief Justice John Roberts said the individual mandate may be upheld as a tax under a narrow reading of the Constitution.
"The individual mandate cannot be upheld as an exercise of Congress's power under the Commerce Clause," Roberts wrote. "That Clause authorizes Congress to regulate interstate commerce, not to order individuals to engage in it. In this case, however, it is reasonable to construe what Congress has done as increasing taxes on those who have a certain amount of income, but choose to go without health insurance. Such legislation is within Congress's power to tax."
A circus-like atmosphere outside the court, with media and protesters milling about, awaited the decision to be handed down this morning.
There were cheers and jeers depending on how protesters felt about the act.
Do you agree with the Supreme Court decision? .
The Affordable Care Act was designed to:
- Expand access to Medicaid
- Require most individuals to carry health insurance
- Prohibit insurers from denying health insurance coverage based on pre-existing conditions
- Create exchanges so individuals and families not eligible for government or employer-sponsored health insurance plans may purchase coverage at more affordable rates.
For a more detailed summary of the act, see the document (PDF) at right.
Today's ruling will likely become a political football, pundits say, in the run-up to the presidential election just four months away.
Former Massachusetts Gov. , who will face President in the presidential election on Nov. 6, has called for doing away with the law.
The Supreme Court's website has audio from arguments in the Supreme Court Affordable Care Act case when it was heard by the court in March.
About 56 percent of Americans say they oppose the law, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released over the weekend.