By DAVID NATHER | 6/28/12 7:18 PM EDT
The Supreme Court just handed the Democrats a huge gift — the John Roberts seal of approval on the health care reform law that just about everyone thought would be struck down.
It’s not an idle question. The conservative chief justice and four of his liberal colleagues declared the law constitutional, but that doesn’t mean that it will work — or get more popular, or survive more legal challenges or dodge more Republican attacks.
For all the talk about how oppressive the individual mandate will be, the penalties for not buying coverage are so low — especially in the first couple of years — that there are serious questions about whether it will actually bring in as many people as it’s supposed to.
The penalty starts at $95 or 1 percent of an individual’s income, whichever is greater. That’s in 2014, when the mandate takes effect. By 2016, when it’s fully phased in, the penalty will be either $695 or 2.5 percent of income. That’s compared to the thousands of dollars a legally acceptable insurance policy would cost if you were to go out and buy one.