#WYNTKA: Obamacare

Photo: A young supporter of "Obamacare" (right) argues with several elderly women who are against the reforms, in front of the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC. (Getty Images)

(Updated) The Supreme Court has finally reached a decision over the controversial healthcare act (aka Obamacare).

The law’s most controversial part, the individual mandate, was ruled unconstitutional as under the Constitution’s commerce clause, but it can stay as part of Congress’s power under a taxing clause. In other words, the gov can charge a penalty tax if people don’t have health insurance. Sound confusing? Don’t worry, we’re decoding what you need to know about the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Affordable Care Act. 

When President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare) into law, Vice President Joe Biden hugged him by the shoulders, leaned into his ear, and whispered not-so-softly, “this is a big f*&$ing deal.” But why is it such a big deal? Why has this been so controversial and more importantly- what are the deets for the 26 and unders? We’ve got your back–read on.

HOW DID WE GET HERE?

The Affordable Care Act, passed into law by Democrats when they controlled the House of Representatives and the Senate in 2010 was passed to make sure everyone in the United States would be able to receive healthcare coverage, no matter who you are, how old you are, or what kind of money you make. But health care has also always been a political football. The law requires, or “mandates” in the legal language, that everyone by 2014 will have to have some form of healthcare or pay what is called a “penalty.” If you are unemployed or having trouble affording healthcare, you can apply for some extra help from the gov. The law also expanded Medicare coverage. Both these aspects ruffled a few feathers, as some felt that it was a government overreach and put an unfair burden on states. Others felt that the cost was just too much to swallow at a time when the federal government is strapped for cash. Since the law was pretty complicated and each side had a lot at stake, there have been a number of not-quite-true stats floating around as a result.

The nonpartisan fact-checking masters over at Politifact make clear you will not have to pay a 3.8% sales tax on your home because of the law, nor will the IRS have to hire 20,000 new workers because of it, nor is the law a “government takeover” that creates “slush funds” with “little or no oversight.” These are all just fibs though.

THE BASICS

For those who can’t currently afford or don’t have health insurance, here’s what this law does.

+ THE ANSWERS

There are 2 main questions the SCOTUS peeps had to answer today. They were:

Q: Is the individual mandate constitutional? (aka, is the U.S. government even allowed to make people do this?)

A: The court ruled that the mandate is unconstitutional under the Constitution’s commerce clause, but it can stay as part of Congress’s power under a taxing clause. The court said that the government will be allowed to tax people for not having health insurance.

Q: Is the health law’s Medicaid expansion constitutional?

A: The justices voted to leave it up to the states to decide whether to go along with this (and receive additional funding)  or not (they wouldn’t be able to be penalized).. Obamacare would have opened up Medicaid to anyone with an income under 138 percent of the federal poverty line.

+ THE BOTTOM LINE

Currently on your parents’ health insurance? You get to stay on your parent’s health insurance until you are 26. Birth control’s about to get a whole lot cheaper — starting in August there will be no copays for birth control. If you have a pre-existing condition, you can get health insurance. Insurance companies can’t deny you coverage even if you get sick or make a mistake on your health insurance application. And lastly, if you choose to not pay for health insurance, the gov can charge you a penalty. The ruling is viewed as a victory for the Obama administration, and will likely continue to be talked about and debated throughout the 2012 Election.  However, no matter what, the controversy isn’t over yet. In his speech today, Obama said that “whatever the politics, today’s decision was a victory for people all over this country.” Romney made his opposition known in his speech, saying that “What the court did not do in its last day of session, I will do on my first day as president.” And the Republican-controlled House is threatening to move towards of a full repeal of the Act this summer. Expect to hear plenty more from both sides — and we’ll be right there to let you know what you need to know.

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