Getting it right after CNN & Fox get it wrong...
By Ernest A. Canning on 6/28/2012, 2:46pm PT  

Guest blogged by Ernest A. Canning

In case you were watching the misreporting by CNN and Fox "News", it was a win for the Obama Administration and a crushing defeat to the Republican opponents of health care insurance reform in this nation. It's that simple.

With the exception of that portion of the Act which permitted the federal government to punish states by cutting off the entirety of their federal Medicaid funds if they declined to expand state Medicaid services from limited categories of individuals to all individuals with incomes below 133% of the poverty level, the U.S. Supreme Court, by its 5-4 decision in National Federation of Independent Business v Sebelius [PDF], upheld all provisions of the Affordable Care Act of 2010 [ACA] against the constitutional challenges that had originally been filed in U.S. District Court by FL, 12 other states and business organizations...

The majority opinion, written by Chief Justice John Roberts, was joined by Justices Ginsberg, Breyer, Sotomayor and Kagan in all respects except the Medicaid expansion ruling.

Roberts explained the rationale for the individual mandate:

By requiring that individuals purchase health insurance, the mandate prevents cost-shifting by those who would otherwise go without it. In addition, the mandate forces into the insurance risk pool more healthy individuals whose premiums on average will be higher than their health care expenses. This allows insurers to subsidize the costs of covering the unhealthy individuals the reforms require them to accept.

While the Court ruled that the imposition of an "individual mandate" was not authorized under Congress's power to "regulate commerce" because it amounted to creating commerce where none exists, it upheld provisions requiring individuals, who fail to obtain insurance, to make an additional payment to the IRS under Congress's power to tax.

So what was not allowed under the Commerce Clause, is allowed if it's just seen as a plain old tax.

Roberts reasoned that the expansion of Medicaid from "the disabled, the blind, the elderly and needy families with dependent children" to "all individuals under 65 with incomes below 133% of the federal poverty line" was tantamount to the creation of a new Medicaid program. He determined the U.S. can withhold federal funds for the new program from those states which decline to participate in it, but it cannot threaten to cut-off all Medicaid funding from those states who decline to participate in the ACA's Medicaid expansion. Doing so, he wrote, exceeds Congress's authority under the Spending Clause.

There will undoubtedly be a plethora of news articles dealing with the political significance of today's Supreme Court ruling. There has been and will be valid reasons to criticize the ACA. However, given the early misreporting by CNN and Fox to the effect that the Court had struck down the individual mandate, it is important to simply report what the Court did or did not rule.

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Ernest A. Canning has been an active member of the California state bar since 1977. Mr. Canning has received both undergraduate and graduate degrees in political science as well as a juris doctor. He is also a Vietnam vet (4th Infantry, Central Highlands 1968). Follow him on Twitter: @Cann4ing.

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