The healthcare reform hearings before the Supreme Court have concluded. And while it’s hard to predict which side of the fence the high court will land on, here’s what we do know.
- The court didn’t seem to want to wait. The justices’ questions suggested that they were receptive to not letting the Anti-Injunction Act stand in the way of them making a ruling this year — which would make both supporters and opponents of the law happy. The act says that consumers can’t challenge a law until they have to pay for it. In other words, the court can’t rule on the law until after its penalties for not having health insurance kick in (which is slated for 2014). But one justice noted the court can waive its right to delay cases under the act.
- The individual mandate — and the law as a whole — do appear to be in real danger. Prior to the hearings, it seemed unthinkable to some that the high court would actually rule that the individual mandate is unconstitutional. But the threat become very real as the justices pressed the federal government hard on multiple fronts. One justice even went so far as to say the feds faced a “heavy burden” in defending the constitutionality of the mandate. Another suggested that if the court cut “the guts” of the law, it would die. A third justice also implied that if one or more provisions were struck down, the burden should fall on Congress to fix the law, not the court.
- If the mandate falls, it’s likely at least two other provisions fall with it. While the the Obama administration claims the majority of the healthcare law can stand on its own, it has already admitted that two provisions would need to get the axe of the individual mandate was deemed unconstitutional. They are: A) the requirement that insurance companies accept any individuals regardless of their health status (pre-existing conditions), and B) The rule prohibiting insurers from charging individuals higher premiums based on their medical history.
- A ruling’s expected in June. All indications are the Supreme Court will rule on the law sometime in June. And the ruling could have a significant impact on the elections. Being President Obama’s signature piece of legislation, a ruling to strike it down could put him in a tight spot with voters.