Supreme Court Upholds Health Care Reform Bill: What’s Next?

health care reform lawImage: Franz Jantzen

On Thursday, the Supreme Court made history by upholding the health care reform bill, which determined that a health insurance mandate requiring Americans to purchase coverage is constitutional. Now that the highly-contested law has been upheld, what can Americans expect in the near future?

Health Insurance Mandate Constitutional

In a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court voted in favor of the health care reform bill, with conservative Chief Justice John Roberts surprisingly providing the swing vote.

The decision is a huge victory for President Barack Obama, who fought in courts to keep the health insurance mandate requiring Americans to purchase health insurance by 2014 to avoid a penalty.

While many lawmakers stood in staunch opposition to the mandate, it was a particular piece of legislation that swayed the justices in favor of upholding the entire law.

The penalty can be characterized as a tax in the Constitution, as determined by the justices. And as Roberts wrote in the decision, “it is not our role to forbid it, or to pass upon its wisdom or fairness.”

What’s Next for the Health Care Reform Bill?

Now that the health care reform bill has been upheld, what can Americans expected next? The first change, of course, is that people will be required to purchase health insurance after 2013. The amount of the penalty will rise annually from 2014 to 2016 then adjust for inflation thereafter:

  • 2014: Individuals ($95), Families ($285 or 1 percent of income, whichever is greater)
  • 2015: Individuals ($325), Families ($975 or 2 percent of income)
  • 2016: Individuals ($625), Families ($2,085 or 2.5 percent of income)

The penalty will not be able to exceed the national average premium of the lowest-cost policy offered through the new health insurance exchanges.

Some other adjustments people can expect from the new health care law include:

  • Insurers will be banned from denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions.
  • States will have a choice of whether to expand Medicaid and care health exchanges.
  • Many small businesses will be required to cover workers to avoid penalties, but will receive help from tax credits.

Also, some provisions that have already taken place, such as one that allows children to remain on their parents’ policies until age 26, will remain intact.