In a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court has upheld President Obama's health-care mandate, with Chief Justice John Roberts casting the surprising, deciding vote that the sweeping reform is constitutional. The ruling is a blow to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, who spearheaded the first national court challenge to Obama's legislation.
The ruling is complex -- for instance, the court has ruled that the feds can't withhold Medicaid money from states that don't comply with the plan -- but here's the root of the decision: The Affordable Care Act, as the legislation is officially known, is constitutional.
Justices Ginsberg, Sotomayor, Breyer, and Kagan wrote an opinion joined by Roberts that the act is constitutional as a form of tax.
Here's how the Scotusblog explains the ruling "in plain English":
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.
In other words: The ruling is a big victory for Obama and a big loss for Republicans like Bondi who challenged the law.
We'll continue updating this post as more information comes to light on what the Supreme Court's decision means for Florida.
Update: CNN -- and the Miami Herald's Twitter feed by extension -- got the ruling wrong in the moments after it was released. Here's the Herald's first tweet on the decision:
Followed quickly by some backtracking:
Finally followed by the correct report:
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The lesson being: Follow Scotusblog, not CNN.
Update 2: For the serious policy nerds out there, the New York Times has uploaded the court's full decision. It's 193 pages long, so let's hope you have a long lunch break to peruse it. Check it out in full here.