In his deciding opinion in the cases challenging the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (AKA Obamacare), Chief Justice John Roberts first says the mandate in the law requiring individuals to buy health insurance is not a tax.
Then he says it is a tax.
He upholds the individual mandate—as a tax, not a penalty—as the law of the land. But then says it would not be “unlawful” for Americans to violate the law’s mandate that they “shall” buy health insurance–as long as they are willing to pay the “penalty” for not obeying the law.
Roberts first examines the question of whether the Anti-Injunction Act prohibits Americans from bringing suit against Obamacare at this time.
“The Anti-Injunction Act provides that ‘no suit for the purpose of restraining the assessment or collection of any tax shall be maintained in any court by any person, whether or not such person is the person against whom such tax was assessed,’” Roberts explains.
“Amicus contends that the Internal Revenue Code treats the penalty as a tax, and that the Anti-Injunction Act therefore bars this suit,” says Roberts.
“The text of the pertinent statutes suggests otherwise,” Roberts continues. “The Anti-Injunction Act applies to suits ‘for the purpose of restraining the assessment or collection of any tax.’ Congress, however, chose to describe the ‘[s]hared responsibility payment’ imposed on those who forgo health insurance not as a ‘tax,’ but as a ‘penalty.’ There is no immediate reason to think that a statute applying to ‘any tax’ would apply to a ‘penalty.’