U.S. Supreme Court
Affordable Care Act — constitutionality
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is a constitutional exercise of Congress’ power to tax.
Such an analysis suggests that the shared responsibility payment may for constitutional purposes be considered a tax. The payment is not so high that there is really no choice but to buy health insurance; the payment is not limited to willful violations, as penalties for unlawful acts often are; and the payment is collected solely by the IRS through the normal means of taxation. Cf. Bailey v. Drexel Furniture Co., 259 U. S. 20–37. None of this is to say that payment is not intended to induce the purchase of health insurance. But the mandate need not be read to declare that failing to do so is unlawful. Neither the Affordable Care Act nor any other law attaches negative legal consequences to not buying health insurance, beyond requiring a payment to the IRS. And Congress’s choice of language—stating that individuals “shall” obtain insurance or pay a “penalty”—does not require reading §5000A as punishing unlawful conduct. It may also be read as imposing a tax on those who go without insurance. See New York v. United States, 505 U. S. 144–174.
648 F.3d 1325, affirmed in part, and reversed in part.
Roberts, C.J.; Ginsburg, J., concurring in part, and dissenting in part; Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas, and Alito, JJ., dissenting; Thomas, J., dissenting.