Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Summary of the Supreme Court Arguments on the Affordable Care Act

Last week the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in support of and against the Affordable care act.  The first day covered whether they could even rule on constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act now, or if they must wait until the law actually takes effect in 2014.  There was discussion as to whether the Anti-injunction Act would apply to this situation.  The Anti-injunction Act says that taxes cannot be challenged until they are actually enforced.   The tone from the arguments and the court seems to be that the ACA is not a tax therefore unlikely that the Anti-injunction Act would apply.

The second day covered the much debated and controversial individual mandate.  The Court deliberated whether Congress can require individuals to purchase insurance and whether they can impose a penalty on those that do not purchase health insurance.  Some of the arguments in support of the individual mandate are that individuals should be required to buy into insurance when they are healthy, rather than just waiting until they are ill and then trying to obtain health insurance.  This would further help preventative health, by encouraging healthy individuals to get preventive screenings to help insure they maintain their good health and prevent or catch potentially negative outcome earlier.  Supporters of the individual mandate argue that Congress has the power to enforce the individual mandate under the Commerce Clause.  Opponents to the individual mandate argue that it is unconstitutional for Congress to force people to purchase health insurance.  There was also some discussion of whether if the Government forces citizens to purchase health insurance, than will this will allow them to force citizens to purchase other things in the future.  There has been argument that if you allow Congress force people to purchase health insurance, that next they can force people to buy vegetables or health club memberships.  However there is a clear difference.  Everyone at some point in their life will need some type of health care.

The last day of arguments covered the issue of if the Court does strike down the individual mandate, does it strike down the entire Affordable Care Act. There was some discussion that if they do strike down the individual mandate, it will be difficult to force insurers to ensure everyone, even those with preexisting conditions can obtain health insurance.  However they did feel that some of the provisions may be upheld.

The last day also included discussions of whether expansion of the Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act will encroach on the rights of the States.  There were arguments that this provision coerces states to comply by giving them an offer they can’t refuse

After the 3 days of oral arguments, the Justices met to cast preliminary votes, but the final decision will not be made public until June.

Vicini, J. U.S. Supreme Court Takes up Healthcare in Secrecy, http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/761316

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