U.S. Supreme Court will consider constitutionality of Affordable Care Act.
There was little doubt that the Affordable Care Act—health care reform—would ultimately be in the hands of the U.S. Supreme Court. After more than a year of conjecture, it’s official. The Court will consider three cases challenging the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act.
Since being passed in March 2010, the Affordable Care Act has been the target of more than 20 court challenges, as well as Congressional repeal efforts. One of the most significant court challenges was made by a consortium of 26 states. The lower courts have split on the various cases. Two of four appellate courts have upheld the law and one said the court challenge was premature because it hadn’t yet taken effect. Only the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta has struck down the law.
Most of the court challenges have focused on whether Congress has the power to require individuals to purchase insurance or pay a penalty. Now the Supreme Court will decide that issue as it hears the cases during the spring session. Although many issues were contested in the various cases, the Court will consider only four:
- The constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act’s provisions requiring virtually all Americans to obtain health insurance (known as the “individual mandate”).
- If the individual mandate is unconstitutional, is the entire law invalid or do the remaining portions of the law still stand?
- Is the law’s expansion of the Medicaid program constitutional?
- Does the Anti-Injunction Act (AIA) bar challenges to the individual mandate (the AIA prevents federal courts from striking down tax laws before they take effect.)?
While the Court will review the individual mandate, it has not agreed to consider the Affordable Care Act’s employer provisions, which will require employers with 50 or more employees to provide affordable minimal essential health coverage to their full-time employees or pay a penalty under certain circumstances.
The Supreme Court is taking up the case in the midst of the presidential election. Oral arguments will likely begin in March 2012, with the Court issuing its opinions by late summer.