After two years of uncertainty and months of heated, often inscrutable legal debate, the verdict on Obamacare is in: In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled this morning that the Affordable Care Act — including the individual mandate, which requires that virtually all Americans purchase health insurance — is constitutional. Obama’s signature legislative achievement stood on the grounds that establishing a penalty for refusing to buy health insurance is tantamount to raising the sort of tax that is within Congress’ taxation powers. In a surprise twist of events, the conservative Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the Court’s four liberal justices, replacing Justice Anthony Kennedy, who joined three conservative justices in a dissent, as the swing voter.
No doubt the Obama administration will view this as a massive victory — and rightfully so — but it’s not a total one; the Court decided that individual states can decide not to expand their Medicaid programs, as ACA calls for, without losing all federal Medicaid funding (they can still lose new funds).
The Court also answered one other pressing question: The New Yorker put the odds of the word “broccoli” appearing in the majority decision at 1-3, and it surfaced 12 times throughout the various opinions.
Now, while the decision is clear enough, it still raises plenty of questions, and the political and legal implications will be worked out over the days (months, years) to come. As a start, here is some of the best insta-commentary:
• Washington Post‘s Wonkblog outlines the challenges for Obamacare that still remain.
• CNN weighs the impact of the decision for the various groups that Obamacare effects.
• The Wall Street Journal puts the effects of the complex decision in plain, practical terms.
• The New Yorker considers whether Chief Justice Roberts’ decision to side with the liberal justices could fundmentally alter our understanding of “the Roberts Court.”
• Michael Shear of the New York Times looks at the implications for the November election.