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Attorney General Schneider Statement on the U.S. Supreme Court Health Care Decision
June 28, 2012
AUGUSTA – Attorney General William J. Schneider announced today that the United States Supreme Court, in a 5 to 4 decision, largely upheld the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, including in particular the individual mandate. However, the Court specifically sided with the States regarding the efforts of the federal government to use Medicaid funding to force the States to expand programs beyond their own policy choices.
“The Supreme Court today held that the penalty that an individual must pay for refusing to buy insurance is a kind of tax that Congress can impose using its taxing power,” said Attorney General Schneider. “The individual mandate does not withstand constitutional scrutiny if Congress uses the Commerce Clause as the source of its power, and the mandate could not have politically withstood the opinion of the American people if it had been branded a tax when the law was being devised.”
Because the mandate survives, the Court did not need to decide what other parts of the statute were constitutional, except for the 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.
The Court held: “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.” In doing so, the Court protected the States’ rights and prerogatives.
“The expansion of Medicaid on the backs of state budgets through all-or-nothing bullying tactics was rejected by the Court,” said Schneider. “We are carefully reviewing the decision to evaluate how this will specifically impact Maine.”
Attorney General Schneider and 25 other state attorneys general, the National Federation of Independent Business and four individual plaintiffs in State of Florida, et al. v. United States Health and Human Services, et al., challenged the federal health care overhaul law as an unconstitutional expansion of the commerce powers of Congress.