In a decision that some will see as shocking and others see as obvious, the US Supreme Court has ruled the health insurance mandate (and most of the rest of Obamacare) constitutional. It was the right decision constitutionally, despite the numerous problems in the new law.
As I have previously suggested on this blog, it’s a bad law that exacerbates rather than fixes the problems of skyrocketing costs (that’s what happens when you allow the insurance industry to write the bill), but it’s not unconstitutional. When hearing and reading the arguments a few months ago, I had suspected Justice Roberts might be more likely than Kennedy to vote in favor of the health insurance mandate, as he was asking questions that suggested he may consider the mandate a tax rather than a regulation of commerce. And as a tax, there is no question that the mandate should be considered constitutional (as this outstanding article made clear nearly two months ago).
That said, the mandate is clearly a tax, which is precisely the opposite of the claims of those who enacted it (Obama: Mandate Is Not A Tax), who would very much like to have been able to claim that this massive tax increase was anything but. But it is indeed a new tax—a tax that goes directly into the pockets of huge private corporations, which should make everyone very happy. Amazingly, this is a tax essentially levied by the insurance industry, using government muscle to pour more money into the insurance bureaucracy. For all the rhetoric and pointed fingers about corruption on the other side of the aisle, both parties insist on running money through the sluices straight to the biggest corporations, and this boondoggle is one of the biggest examples of that in history.
Republicans can’t exactly use that as evidence that they’re somehow above it all, however, as the Republicans proposed a very similar plan when they controlled Congress in the 90s. The idea for the individual mandate came from Newt Gingrich, after all. (See how that works? The party in power caters to the big money interests, the party not in power criticizes them for it, then comes into power and caters to the same interests until they’re voted out for others who will do the same thing. American “political technology” is amazingly efficient and ensures that the big money interests keep pulling the strings while everyone is misdirected by supposedly partisan politics.)
When hearing and reading the arguments a few months ago, I had suspected Justice Roberts might be more likely than Kennedy to vote in favor of the health insurance mandate, as he was asking questions that suggested he may consider the mandate a tax rather than a regulation of commerce. And as a tax, there is no question that the mandate should be considered constitutional. Roberts and the SCOTUS made the right decision here. It’s not the job of the Supreme Court to legislate. It is not the job of the Supreme Court to save the USA from bad legislation. And it’s not the Supreme Court’s job to fix the healthcare problem. It’s their job to determine whether laws are constitutional, and they made the right decision here. The mandate is a tax and is therefore constitutional. The Supreme Court did its job. It’s the job of the legislature to produce (better) solutions.