OLYMPIA – Today the US Supreme Court upheld the 2010 Affordable Care Act. In a close decision, with multiple opinions, the Court ruled that the federal requirement to purchase health insurance—specifically a plan dictated by government regulators – does not violate the Constitution.
The states argued that the Constitution’s Commerce Clause allows Congress to regulate commerce among the states but does not allow it to force Americans to engage in commerce. A majority of the Court agreed but the Court ultimately ruled that the mandate is constitutional under Congress’s taxing power.
“Our system of government provides a series of checks and balances, allowing new laws—especially ones that raise major constitutional questions—to be tested in court,” said Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna. “While we’re disappointed that this close decision did not find in the states’ favor with regard to the individual mandate, the country benefits from a thoughtful debate about the reach of federal power into the legal rights of the states and the personal financial decisions of all Americans.”
A majority of the Court also agreed with states’ argument that the federal government may not take away existing Medicaid funds from states that choose not to participate in the expansion of the Medicaid program.
"Nothing in our opinion precludes Congress from offering funds under the ACA to expand the availability of health care, and requiring that states accepting such funds comply with the conditions on their use,” the Court wrote. “What Congress is not free to do is to penalize States that choose not to participate in that new program by taking away their existing Medicaid funding."
“Now the federal government must treat the states as equal partners, as both seek to provide health coverage for the poor,” said McKenna.
The case was brought by attorneys general of 26 states including Washington, along with the National Federation of Independent Business.
Supreme Court Opinion: http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/11pdf/11-393c3a2.pdf
Janelle Guthrie, Director of Communications, (360) 586-0725