August 10, 2014
Obamacare Penalty: Fine Or Tax? Constitutional Debate Rages After 2013 Government Shutdown

The Obamacare penalty is either an Affordable Care fine or tax depending on who you ask. And the Obamacare constitutional debate over the individual mandate has resumed with the 2013 government shutdown and the opening of the Obamacare exchanges.

As previously reported by The Inquisitr, the Obamacare penalty will increase over time, with the total fine for families of four reaching thousands of dollars by 2016. Because of this Americans are on the lookout for Obamacare exemptions that let you avoid the Affordable Care Act.

The Obamacare constitutional debate started because of the circumstances of the origination of the Affordable Care Act bill. As required by the Origination Clause of the US Constitution, all spending and appropriations bills must originate in the House of Representatives, but the Senate must confirm them and the President sign off on any ideas.

The ACA bill started life as House Resolution 3590, which was then called the Service Members Home Ownership Act. After passing the House, the bill was stripped in a "gut and amend" process and replaced entirely with the contents of what became the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Thus Obamacare was spawned via bypassing the House of Representatives.

After the 2013 government shutdown Sarah Palin called Obamacare unconstitutional, citing the legal history of the Affordable Care Act bill:

"I believe it is unconstitutional because it violates the commerce clause. The federal government really has no right in telling us what we should and should not purchase."
As part of the US Constitution, the commerce clause gives Congress the power "to regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states, and with the Indian tribes." But progressives and conservatives disagree heavily on whether the Federal government can require citizens to purchase private products such as healthcare insurance or face a penalty tax. Still others believe the Federal government should implement a single payer health care system where all healthcare is regulated and quasi-insured by the government.

As we all know by now, the Supreme Court passed Obamacare as a tax and not as a mandate in order to avoid the commerce clause. Lawsuits against the Federal government argued that Obamacare's constitutional standing was in jeopardy because of the Origination Clause. But the government claimed the "Senate may amend a House bill in any way it deems advisable, even by amending it with a total substitute." Even now the Obamacare lawsuits related to the Origination Clause are still pending yet the Supreme Court probably won't see the cases until well fact the Affordable Care Act has been fully implemented.

The Obamacare constitutional debate strikes to the heart of the usage of words like penalty, fine, and tax. Politicians like Obama argue it's a tax penalty out of one side of the mouth but through the other they say it's not a tax because that would hurt Obamacare's popularity. But if in action the Obamacare penalty is really a fine for not complying then all of the sudden Obamacare is illegal based upon prior case law and logic.

Yet, at the same time, the Obamacare penalty is the only way to make the goals of the Affordable Care Act feasible since the overall pool of people must increase:

What do you think about the Obamacare penalty? Do you believe it to be a fine or a tax based upon how its being enforced? Do you consider Obamacare constitutional?