Exactions in the Affordable Care Act
This article very well thought out & realistic respecting political considerations that went into the decision:
Remember, the Court's sole rationale for ruling the exactions in the Affordable Care Act were taxes rather than penalties was its belief that the taxes were too low to actually compel anyone to buy health insurance. This made it consistent with the Court's view that Congress lacks the legislative authority, under the commerce clause, to compel Americans to buy health insurance. If the court believed that the tax was actually high enough to leave Americans with no rational choice other than to buy health insurance, Roberts would have ruled the tax unconstitutional.
His observation that the tax is too low to be effective may be the one thing the Court actually got right. However, once the government realizes that it underpriced the fines, it will have no choice but to raise the tax rate substantially to stop healthy people from rationally dropping their coverage (because insurance companies could not deny them similarly priced coverage after they got sick). Just as they routinely do now with respect to income taxes, the lower courts will likely misinterpret the Supreme Court's ruling and rubber stamp any future rate hikes. For political reasons it is unlikely that a Constitutional challenge to such an increase will ever make it back up to the Supreme Court.
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