One can only hope that Justice Roberts has made it too expensive to feed Obamacare. We might yet be rid of that monstrosity.
But Roberts’s decision limits Congress’s latitude by holding that the small size of the penalty is part of the reason it is, for constitutional purposes, a tax. It is not a “financial punishment” because it is not so steep that it effectively prohibits the choice of paying it. And, Roberts noted, “by statute, it can never be more.”As Lambert says, the penalty for refusing to purchase insurance counts as a tax only if it remains so small as to be largely ineffective.
Unable to increase penalties substantially, Congress, in the context of “guaranteed issue” and “community rating,” has only one way to induce healthy people to purchase insurance. This is by the hugely expensive process of increasing premium subsidies enough to make negligible the difference between the cost of insurance to purchasers and the penalty for not purchasing. Republicans will ferociously resist exacerbating the nation’s financial crisis in order to rescue the ACA.
Because the penalties are constitutionally limited by the reasoning whereby Roberts declared them taxes, he may have saved the ACA’s constitutionality by sacrificing its feasibility. So as the president begins his second term, the signature achievement of his first term looks remarkably rickety.
[Bold emphasis mine]
Roberts may have made it impossible to feed the beast. If so, good for him. Bravo. Nicely done. I am fearful that there will be some kind of work around – something that will no doubt leave future generations massively burdened with the debt of today. For now, fear aside, I hope…