By Gel Santos Relos
The Supreme Court of the United States has declared as constitutional President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, including the contentious centerpiece of the legislation that mandates every individual to purchase health insurance, or pay fines for failing to do so.
President Barack Obama has achieved what many presidents in the past, both Democrat and Republican, have failed to do-- to reform the health care system in America to provide better health care coverage to the American people.
The landmark decision allows the law to go forward with its aim of covering more than 30 million uninsured Americans. The individual mandate requirement of the law is critical to the implementation of Obama Care to achieve that.
Chief Justice John Roberts explained that while the federal government has no power to require individuals to purchase health insurance, the fines to be imposed for failing to purchase health insurance may be construed as taxes-- and the Constitution gives the federal government to tax people.
"Because the Constitution permits such a tax, it is not our role to forbid it, or to pass upon its wisdom or fairness," Roberts said.
While the highest court found issues with the law's expansion of Medicaid, the justices said the expansion could proceed provided the federal government does not threaten to withhold states' entire Medicaid allotment if they don't take part in the law's extension.
In a 5-4 majority decision of the Supreme Court, President Bush appointed Chief Justice John Roberts became the decider of the long standing debate when he sided with the four liberal-leaning justices of the highest court--Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor.
"The act before us here exceeds federal power both in mandating the purchase of health insurance and in denying non-consenting states all Medicaid funding," dissenting justices Samuel Alito, Anthony Kennedy, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas said in a statement.
President Obama called the decision "a victory for people all over this country."
"The highest court in the land has now spoken. We will continue to implement this law...With today's announcement it is time for us to move forward, to implement and when necessary improve on this law." Obama said.
While this landmark decision of the Supreme Court has made the Affordable Care Act the law of the land, and can definitely be deemed as a victory for President Barack Obama and the Democrats in this election year, the political battle is sure not over.
The Republicans vow to continue the fight to repeal and replace the law. As presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has been saying in the campaign trail, if elected President, he will repeal Obama Care on day one. Reacting to the SC decision, Romney said while the court has ruled Obama Care as constitutional, it did not say it is right for America.
The fate, therefore, of Obama Care, will very much depend on who will win in the consequential Presidential Elections this November.
Such power is in the hands of the American people as they cast their vote.
Key Provisions of the Law That Are Effective Now
Giving immediate access to health insurance for people with pre-existing medical conditions who had previously been refused coverage.
Insurance companies were also prohibited from refusing to insure young people under the age of 19 with preexisting medical conditions.
Insurers are banned from what were widely regarded as immoral practices, such as canceling policies when the holders became sick, and imposing lifetime financial limits on payouts for essential care. In many cases, these practices have caused many American families to lose their home or go into bankruptcy just to be able to pay their hefty medical bills.
Parents are now allowed to keep their dependent children on their insurance policies until the offspring are 26 years old – a move that saved many from having to take out new and expensive policies as students.
Insurance companies are also now required to offer certain preventative health services without additional cost, such as mammograms.
Medicare prescription drug coverage (Part D) for seniors becomes more affordable. They get 50% discount on covered brand-name drugs, and get a 7% discount on generic drugs while in the Donut Hole, providing additional savings on covered brand-name and generic drugs while in the coverage gap until the gap is closed in 2020.
Key Provisions That What Will Be Effective Beginning 2014
By January 2014, 2014, the individual mandate provision of the law is scheduled to kick in, requiring almost every American to obtain health insurance. A sliding scale of penalties kicks in over the following two years. By 2016, this will raise rising to 2.5% of income or $695 per person for those who fail to buy insurance.
Expanded Medicaid coverage will provide care for those living below the poverty line.
The establishment of health insurance exchanges to spread the risk in order to cover the additional costs insurance companies incur through the reforms while making policies more affordable. Premiums will be subsidized for people living in households with a total income of up to four times the poverty line up to a maximum of 9.5% of income.
Moreover, the exchanges will require that people deemed to be high risk because of pre-existing medical conditions cannot be charged higher rates than the rest of the population with a cap on additional out of pocket medical expenses of $5,950 per year for individual or $11,900 for each family.
By 2014, the dreaded annual spending caps will also be prohibited.
Provisions of the Law That Will Kick in by 2018
By the year 2018, all insurance policies must cover approved preventative care without additional cost.
Tax breaks will greatly reduce the overall cost for most families but those people who chose to take out high cost insurance plans, known as "Cadillac" insurance, will pay a 40% tax.
Do you think the Supreme Court made the right decision? What will this mean for Obama and Romney in the presidential race?