The Affordable Care Act's (ACA) individual mandate provision requires that by 2014 people enroll in a health insurance plan that meets basic minimum standards. If people do not enroll in a health insurance plan, they may be required to pay a penalty. If people have very low income or coverage is unaffordable, they will not have to pay a penalty.
The mandate stirred up controversy after the ACA was passed, with critics arguing that it was unconstitutional under the commerce clause. Opponents claimed that giving Congress the power to force people to buy insurance meant that lawmakers could force individuals to buy practically anything, even broccoli.
The Supreme Court considered the constitutionality of the individual mandate and ruled in favor of upholding it on June 28, 2012 under Congress's ability to impose taxes.
The court decided that it could not be upheld under the commerce clause; the ruling stated that Congress has the power to regulate commerce but not to compel it. Therefore, the government cannot regulate individuals who are doing nothing (such as not buying insurance) under the commerce clause.
However, in the majority opinion, Chief Justice Roberts wrote that the ACA penalties for not purchasing insurance could reasonably be upheld as a tax.
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