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LIU Expert: Supreme Court Got ACA Right

Carl Figliola, chair of Health Care and Public Administration at LIU Post, says penalty for lack of insurance is rightly considered a tax; Supreme Court’s upholding of Affordable Care Act will benefit hospitals and other health care providers


Morgan Lyle,Assistant Director of Public Relations
LIU Post, Long Island University

Brookville, N.Y. – In upholding the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday did what supporters of the law would not do – describe the penalty for not having health insurance as a tax, a Long Island University public policy expert said.

While a tax may be politically unpalatable, the money it raises will help offset the cost of caring for people with no insurance, said Dr. Carl Figliola, chair of the Department of Health Care and Public Administration at LIU Post.

The ACA will benefit hospitals and other health care providers by ensuring they will be paid for medical care, he said, noting that large hospital chains' stocks rose on news of the ruling, while large insurers' stocks fell.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the "requirement that certain individuals pay a financial penalty for not obtaining health insurance may reasonably be characterized as a tax. Because the Constitution permits such a tax, it is not our role to forbid it, or to pass upon its wisdom or fairness."

The high court's ruling endorses the thrust of the law, Dr. Figliola said. "We're mandating you to buy health insurance, but if you don't buy health insurance, when you fill out your tax return, we're going to tax you, and that money will offset the shortfalls from uninsured patients going to emergency rooms."

But the court ruled that the government's power to encourage people to buy insurance comes not from the Constitution's commerce clause, as ACA supporters have maintained. Instead, it comes from the federal authority to levy tax, Dr. Figliola said.
"The judge did what the legislature failed to do by making it constitutional through the use of his own pen," Figliola said. "He acknowledged the word "tax' rather than sending it back to the House for corrections. So in an interesting way he became very proactive.

However, even though he sided with the liberal bench, he really reinforced conservative philosophy, which minimizes the commerce clause and does set the stage for what's going to be a very real political debate over the next few months on taxing people for health insurance."

Posted 07/02/2012

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