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Supreme Court upholds Affordable Care Act

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With a 5-4 vote, the U.S. Supreme Court this morning upheld the controversial Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act by ruling on a challenge filed in September. National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius sought to overturn the law, which was signed by President Obama in March 2010.

The Supreme Court ruled in favor of both the individual mandate, which requires individuals to purchase health insurance policies with a minimum coverage level, and the Medicaid expansion, which grants funding to states provided they provide health care to individuals with incomes below a certain threshold, though the weight of the Medicaid portion of the act was lessened, according to the court ruling found on the Supreme Court's Web site.

In its opinion, the court found the financial penalty for individuals without health insurance may constitutionally be considered a tax, since the Internal Revenue Service would begin collecting it in 2015.

Additionally, the Supreme Court ruled to tone down the Medicaid portion of the act, limiting the power of the federal government to penalize states that choose not to take part.

"The threatened loss of over 10 percent of a state’s overall budget ... is economic dragooning that leaves the states with no real option but to acquiesce in the Medicaid expansion," Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion. "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."

Much of the Affordable Care Act takes effect in 2014, when new patient protections become active, and insurance companies would be disallowed from discriminating against those with pre-existing conditions or based on gender or health status, according WhiteHouse.gov.

Brad Jones, state director of NFIB in Missouri, said while the organization supports the court's decision, it was disappointed in the ruling.

"We are concerned about the precedent that this will set in Congress’ ability to mandate other aspects of our lives, but we will move forward from today to continue to fight, harder than ever, for real health care reform for our membership," he said in a news release.

U.S. Congressman Billy Long, a Republican from Springfield, refuted the Supreme Court's decision regarding the tax on those who don't obtain health insurance.

"The Obama administration and Democrats who passed this harmful law were clear in stating that the mandate was not a tax, yet the Supreme Court chose to ignore that fact and uphold the mandate under the taxing provision granted to Congress," Long said in a separate release. "This decision is not only a blow to Americans who must deal with the consequences of government takeover of health care, but it is also a blow to democracy and the individual liberties this country was founded on."

Business advocacy group Small Business Majority maintained the Affordable Care Act is a victory for small-business owners.

"The Affordable Care Act tackles small-business owners’ top priorities when it comes to health care reform: cost and accessibility. The law will significantly rein in costs while providing more health coverage options for entrepreneurs," the organization said in a statement.[[In-content Ad]]

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