The sharply-divided U.S. Supreme Court Thursday that upheld President Barack Obama's signature public policy initiative took most of official Washington by surprise. The policy requires that most Americans get insurance by 2014 or pay a financial penalty.

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, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the court's majority in the opinion.

Because the Constitution permits such a tax, it is not our role to forbid it, or to pass upon its wisdom or fairness, Roberts concluded. The vote was 5-4.

High Court: Insurance Penalty Is A Tax

According to the U.S. Supreme Court's blog, the Affordable Care Act, including its individual mandate that virtually all Americans buy health insurance, is constitutional. There were not five votes to uphold it on the ground that Congress could use its power to regulate commerce between the states to require everyone to buy health insurance.

However, five justices agreed that the penalty that someone must pay if he refuses to buy insurance is a kind of tax that Congress can impose using its taxing power, the blog reported.

Hence, because the mandate is constitutional, the court did not need to decide what other parts of the statute were constitutional, except for a provision that required states to comply with new eligibility requirements for Medicaid or risk losing their funding, the blog reported. On that question, the Court held that the provision is constitutional as long as states would only lose new funds if they didn't comply with the new requirements, rather than all of their funding.

Tea Party Response

Amy Kremer, Chairman of the Tea Party Express, said, The Supreme Court ruled to uphold this unprecedented intrusion of the federal government into our personal health care decisions, CNN reported Thursday. The American people still reject this legislation as bad policy and unwanted government interference with their lives. We will continue to work to defeat Obamacare at the ballot box in November by electing fiscal conservatives ready and willing to represent the will of the people by fully repealing every piece of this legislation.

While we are disappointed in the majority opinion of the Court, we cannot ignore how President Barack Obama and the Democratic Congress squandered over a year of his Administration on an unpopular law rather than address the important economic issues that continue to plague our financial well-being.

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