The short answer to this question is yes. Obamacare is the common name for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which is generally shortened to the Affordable Care Act, or ACA. All of these are names for the same federal statute, which was approved by both houses of Congress and then signed into law in 2010 by the President. Despite this adherence to due process, however, there has been no shortage of debate about whether or not the ACA is legal, with several lawsuits resulting, not to mention multiple decisions by the Supreme Court. In truth, most attacks on the ACA target specific provisions, rather than the law in its entirety. Here are some of the biggest questions concerning both the constitutionality and the legality of this law.
The 2012 case NFIB v Sebelius was one of the best known and most contentious lawsuits launched against Obamacare, and it had a couple of notable components. The main challenge addressed the constitutionality of forcing Americans to purchase individual health insurance. On this score the Supreme Court ruled that the mandate for individuals to buy health insurance was actually a form of taxation, and therefore legal. Also under dispute was state expansion of Medicaid services. On this score it was ruled that states could opt out of Medicaid expansion, while still receiving federal funding. The unfortunate outcome was that states refusing to provide further funding only allowed their residents to suffer as a result.
Another hot-button issue resulted in the 2014 case Burwell v Hobby Lobby. In this case the topic was the legality of forcing employers to carry plans that included coverage for contraception. Certain businesses, especially those with religious leanings, felt this section of Obamacare trampled their religious beliefs (and 1st Amendment rights). This lawsuit, in addition to others of the same nature, was resolved by the ruling that closely-held for-profit corporations could not be forced to provide coverage for contraception if it is against their religious beliefs. However, the ruling prompted the creation of a third-party option to cover such expenses at no extra cost to employees of exempt businesses.
The most recent lawsuit of note to challenge Obamacare was the 2015 case King v Burwell, which alleged that the language of the law provided for tax credits only for qualifying individuals in states that had set up their own, state-run insurance exchanges under the ACA, as opposed to states that simply utilized federal government entities (i.e. the Department of Health and Human Services). The Supreme Court ruled that although the language was unclear, the intent was that qualifying individuals in every state should enjoy the same opportunities to receive tax credits, regardless of whether or not a state-run exchange had been established.
Several other lawsuits and rulings have been made regarding the relative legality of Obamacare, or more specifically, aspects of the law. However, the core of the ACA has held up to these legal challenges and interpretations and looks to endure as law despite ongoing opposition. It remains to be seen whether it will be overturned by a subsequent administration, but for now Obamacare is in fact a law.
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