Friday, March 16, 2012

A summary of what to expect when the Supreme Court hears arguments about the health-care reform law

How big a deal will it be when the U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments about the constitutionality of the new federal health-care reform law later this month? Big, concludes Stuart Taylor Jr. for Kaiser Health News.

"It's big enough for the justices to schedule six hours of arguments — more time than given to any case since 1966," he reports. "It's also big enough to attract more briefs than any other case in history ... and, finally, it's big enough to cause the justices to postpone until October half of the 12 cases that they were ordinarily going to hear in April in order to clear time to get started on the health care opinions."

The most pressing issues deal with the individual mandate of the law, which requires people without insurance to buy some or pay fines. The question is whether the mandate "represents an unconstitutional exercise on Congress' power to regulate commerce and to levy taxes," Taylor notes. There is also the question of state sovereignty, since the law requires states "to spend more of their own money or forfeit all of the federal Medicaid money they now receive," Taylor reports.

As for the outcome, that's the million-dollar question, Taylor writes. "It's clear that the court's four more liberal members, like almost all other liberal legal experts, will find the law constitutional in all respects. It's also clear that conservative Justice Clarence Thomas will vote to strike down much or all of the law. It's less clear what swing-voting Justice Anthony Kennedy and conservative Chief Justice John Roberts as well as Justices Antonin Scalia and Samuel Alito will do."

As for the major arguments regarding Medicaid and for and against the individual mandate, Taylor provides an excellent summary that is worth reading in its entirety. (Read more)

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