All eyes will be on the Supreme Court this Thursday as the justices will hand down their landmark decision, deciding the fate of healthcare reform. The highly anticipated ruling comes on the last day of the summer session and could strike down or uphold the Affordable Care Act
championed by President Barack Obama.
The decision caps off a dramatic legal battle over two years in the making. Shortly after healthcare reform was passed in 2010, numerous states and private organizations filed suit against the federal government claiming the law's mandate requiring individuals to purchase insurance was unconstitutional. (For an overview of the Supreme Court challenge click here
Their challenges have had mixed results in the lower federal courts. Three courts have upheld reform, while three others have struck it down.
In March, these challenges were consolidated and presented before the Supreme Court during six hours of intense legal arguments. To put that in perspective, traditionally, Supreme Court sessions last only one hour. The justices will determine their opinion based on four fundamental questions:
1) Is the individual mandate constitutional?
2) Can the mandate be struck down by itself or must the whole law be struck down?
3) Is the law's expansion of Medicaid constitutional?
4) Can the court make a decision on the case before the law goes into effect?
It's possible that the court could issue a multitude of rulings on each individual question or they could delay their decision until later in the summer, or until the law takes effect in 2014; though it's highly unlikely the court will push off their ruling considering the high profile nature.
Legal analysts have outlined several likely scenarios for Thursday's ruling. The court could uphold the entire Affordable Care Act and rule the individual mandate as constitutional. This would be a major victory for the Obama Administration and it would also spare the medical industry major disruptions as they prepare for changes in the law. Or the justices could decide that the mandate must go and strike down the entire law.
Another likely outcome is that the court could rule the mandate unconstitutional, but leave other parts of the law in place. This decision could create a multitude of problems for consumers and insurance companies. Insurers would still be required to accept all customers without imposing extra costs on those with pre-existing conditions. Because the mandate requiring all participants in the market to buy health insurance would no longer be in place, premium prices could skyrocket.
Many are predicting the court will strike down the individual mandate. While the Affordable Care Act was initially popular with voters in 2010, public opinion has remained negative when it comes to the mandate portion of the bill. Nearly two-thirds of Americans think the individual mandate should be ditched.
The opinion is touted as being the most important decision from the Supreme Court in the last decade. The justices' ruling will have lasting consequences on how Americans access care and will continue the debate over the proper role of government in health reform well beyond the 2012 elections.
Haberkorn, Jennifer. "A Viewer's Guide to the SCOTUS Health Care Ruling." Politico.com
. POLITICO, 25 June 2012. Web. 26 June 2012. <http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0612/77816.html>.
Holyk, Greg. "As Health Care Law’s Trial Approaches, Two-Thirds Say Ditch Individual Mandate." ABC News
. ABC News Network, 19 Mar. 2012. Web. 26 June 2012. <http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2012/03/as-health-care-laws-trial-approaches-two-thirds-say-ditch-individual-mandate/>.
Kendall, Brent, and Peter Landers. "Four Scenarios for Thursday'Â€Â™s Ruling on Health Care." WSJ.com
. Wall Street Journal, 25 June 2012. Web. 26 June 2012. <http://blogs.wsj.com/washwire/2012/06/25/health-law-decision-to-come-thursday/?mod=djemalertNEWS>.