Says SCOTUS blog, which adds that the court's opinion, just released, is "very complicated, so we're still figuring it out."
Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the court's more liberal members in finding that the individual mandate—which requires nearly all Americans to buy health insurance or pay a fine—is constitutional because that fine, in the Supreme Court's view, is a tax that Congress has the power to levy. Or, as SCOTUS blog puts it:
Chief Justice Roberts' vote saved the ACA.
Something you're sure to hear about from the right: The court did find that the ACA's individual mandate violates the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution. But, at the same time, as already mentioned, it found that the individual mandate is constitutional as a tax. And, apparently, "constitutional as a tax" trumps "unconstitutional under the Commerce Clause." Therefore, the mandate survives. For people opposed to health care reform, however, this will be boiled down to: We were right! The Supreme Court agreed! It just got confused after that!
Justice Kennedy, speaking on behalf of the dissenters, says:
In our view, the entire Act before us is invalid in its entirety.
But he didn't have five votes for that opinion, so: Sorry, dude.
An interesting question from the Volokh Conspiracy: Did Roberts change his mind part way through the process?
Scalia’s dissent, at least on first quick perusal, reads like it was originally written as a majority opinion (in particular, he consistently refers to Justice Ginsburg’s opinion as “The Dissent”).
McKenna issues a statement:
Our system of government provides a series of checks and balances, allowing new laws—especially ones that raise major constitutional questions—to be tested in court. While we’re disappointed that this close decision did not find in the states’ favor with regard to the individual mandate, the country benefits from a thoughtful debate about the reach of federal power into the legal rights of the states and the personal financial decisions of all Americans.
Ari Melber at The Nation flags what he calls the key passage in today's ruling. Worth a read, especially for those wanting to hear a clear distillation of the court's thinking on the Commerce Clause / taxing power issue:
Although the breadth of Congress’s power to tax is greater than its power to regulate commerce, the taxing power does not give Congress the same degree of control over individual behavior. Once we recognize that Congress may regulate a particular decision under the Commerce Clause, the Federal Government can bring its full weight to bear. Congress may simply command individuals to do as it directs. An individual who disobeys may be subjected to criminal sanctions. Those sanctions can include not only fines and imprisonment, but all the attendant consequences of being branded a criminal: deprivation of otherwise protected civil rights, such as the right to bear arms or vote in elections; loss of employment opportunities; social stigma; and severe disabilities in other controversies, such as custody or immigration disputes.
By contrast, Congress’s authority under the taxing power is limited to requiring an individual to pay money into the Federal Treasury, no more. If a tax is properly paid, the Government has no power to compel or punish individuals subject to it. We do not make light of the severe burden that taxation—especially taxation motivated by a regulatory purpose—can impose. But imposition of a tax nonetheless leaves an individual with a lawful choice to do or not do a certain act, so long as he is willing to pay a tax levied on that choice.
The Affordable Care Act’s 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.