The County Voice

U.S. Supreme Court – All About the Affordable Care Act

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) will be in the spotlight next week as the U.S. Supreme Court hears legal arguments on a variety of fronts. The Court will listen to challenges to the ACA for six hours over three days, March 26-28. It has been nearly 60 years since the high court spent that much time to hear one case; typically the court spends an hour hearing arguments. The case has also attracted more briefs than any other in history (170+).

The Court has multiple issues before them. On Monday, March 26 the justices will hear arguments about whether the individual mandate can be litigated now. At issue is whether the fines that people will be required to pay who do not purchase health insurance are a tax. The 1867 Anti-Injunction Act bars federal courts from ruling on the constitutionality of tax laws before payments are due. Payments are not required by the ACA until 2015.

On Tuesday, March 27, the Court will hear arguments about whether the individual mandate is an unconstitutional exercise of Congress’ powers to regulate commerce and levy taxes.

On Wednesday, March 28 the Court will hear two issues. In the morning, they will hear arguments about severability – what happens to the other provisions of the ACA if the individual mandate is found to be unconstitutional? Is the individual mandate provision severable from the rest of the law?

In the afternoon, the Court will hear arguments about state sovereignty. Does the law’s Medicaid expansion violate state sovereignty by requiring states to spend more money or forfeit all of the Medicaid money that they currently receive?

The Court is expected to issue opinions by late June or early July.

For those of you hoping to watch the hearings, you are out of luck. The U.S. Supreme Court does not allow video coverage of their proceedings. Expect extensive press coverage next week.

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