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Well, knock me over with a feather -- the Supreme Court has upheld the Affordable Care Act (ACA), often called Obamacare, ruling that Congress was within its power to impose the "individual mandate" and that ACA is constitutional. So what does that mean for us? Well, there's a lot of celebrating going on among American families today. Facebook is all a-twitter (sorry, couldn't help myself!) with comments like, "I'm doing a happy dance for health insurance for my family!"
But it's dangerous, as CNN learned this morning, to jump to any conclusions without a careful reading. CNN initially reported that the individual mandate -- the government requirement that all Americans must buy some sort of health insurance or face a financial penalty -- had been overturned. But the detailed folks at SCOTUSblog, who are reading the decision carefully (even as it was being read from the bench at the Supreme Court) contend that the the opinion says this:
"The Affordable Care Act, including its individual mandate that virtually all Americans buy health insurance, is constitutional. There were not five votes to uphold it on the ground that Congress could use its power to regulate commerce between the states to require everyone to buy health insurance. However, five Justices agreed that the penalty that someone must pay if he refuses to buy insurance is a kind of tax that Congress can impose using its taxing power. That is all that matters. Because the mandate survives, the Court did not need to decide what other parts of the statute were constitutional, except for a provision that required states to comply with new eligibility requirements for Medicaid or risk losing their funding. On that question, the Court held that the provision is constitutional as long as states would only lose new funds if they didn't comply with the new requirements, rather than all of their funding."
This is a huge win for President Obama and the Democrats as they continue to forge ahead through the campaign season, and a huge political thorn in the side of Mitt Romney, who has tried to distance himself from his own support of a similar law when he was Massachusetts governor.
Surprisingly, Chief Justice John Roberts, a staunch conservative, sided with the more liberal leaning justices and wrote the Court's opinion. Because they ruled that the law could stand, there was no need to address individual portions about pre-existing conditions or allowing dependents to stay on their family's insurance plan until they're 26 years old.
Now, 30 million uninsured Americans will have insurance (or have to pay a fine) -- the 30 million Americans that those of us with health insurance have been carrying financially -- lifetime limits on insurance coverage that has been a problem for people with serious health issues can no longer be imposed, students can stay on their parents' plans until the can get their own insurance, and patients can't be denied coverage for pre-existing conditions anymore.
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This is a very good day for Americans and for health care. To have one of the most conservative Supreme Court justices be the author of the opinion that says the law is, in fact, constitutional, is a big loss for Republicans and conservatives who believe the ACA has been a huge overreach. Those who claim Obamacare will be a burden on small businesses that have to help their employees get health insurance have ignored the tax credit in the law that will help six million small businesses manage doing just that.
Clearly, there will be much more analysis to come in the next weeks and months, and motives and analyses of the justices will be under a microscope. But for the moment, millions of families across America are breathing a huge sigh of relief when it comes to knowing they'll have health care coverage for their loved ones.
Check out President Obama's reaction to the ruling below:
You can read more from author and political strategist Joanne Bamberger at her blog, PunditMom. Joanne is also the author of the Amazon bestseller, Mothers of Intention: How Women and Social Media are Revolutionizing Politics in America.