In a huge development this morning, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) has indicated they will hear oral arguments from both sides on the legal challenges to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Expected to occur in March, 2012, this represents victory for opponents of the law, and should hopefully provide certainty for businesses and state governments, many of whom face confusion over government regulations. Some states have delayed implementation of setting up insurance exchanges and other requirements until after legal issues are resolved. Opponents of the law argue against mandates for individuals and employers to purchase insurance, and this is the crux of the legal arguments.
The Supreme Court has allotted 5 ½ hours for oral arguments, a significant amount of time, which shows once again the importance and complexities of this issue. It will also likely have future implications for other cases and the future power of the federal government, however, the Court chose to review information from three of the five appeals which involve the federal government, 26 states and the National Federation of Independent Businesses, a small business trade association.
The schedule for this historic day is expected to include two hours of oral arguments on the individual mandate provision which is the requirement that all individuals obtain health insurance by 2014 or face a tax penalty. Mid-Sized and large employers must also provide insurance to their employees, a charge they dispute, arguing that it could slow expansion and lead to the reduction in jobs.
Next will include 90 minutes of oral arguments on whether all or some of the law must be repealed due to this provision should it be found un-constitutional. This is because the individual mandate provision is such key part of the legislation with industry representatives from insurance, drug and other industries going along with the law due to the promise of some 32 million new customers by 2019. If those customers are not required to purchase insurance this number could be much less. Furthermore, eliminating this provision could crumble the law as it is the cornerstone of the legislation.
Another hour will explore this issue more, exploring whether the Anti-Injuntion Act nullifies part or all of the challenges to the insurance mandate.
Finally the Court will conclude with an hour of arguments in an effort to determine whether expanding Medicaid to cover all individuals making less than $14,400 per year is allowed by the federal government. This issue gives many states heartburn since they are required to pay for part of this expansion and many are already struggling to balance their budgets. Expanding one of their most costly programs could problematic, and may lead to either higher taxes or reduced services elsewhere.
The length of time allotted to this issue appears to be one of the most in modern time and this is because the complexity of the issue and the importance of getting this right. As many of you can clearly see, there is quite the debate going on between state and federal power. Just turn on any Republican debate if you need proof. So this ruling is going to have major implications for all of us. Stay tuned as we follow this and other issues involving implementation of the health reform legislation.