The Supreme Court: What’s on their mind this week?

Posted March, 27 2012 by arianne

Well, today marks Day 2 of the Supreme Court’s oral arguments on the Affordable Care Act (aka “health reform,” “Obamacare,” “my hero”), so I thought I would give a quick recap of what’s been going on so far.

The arguments at this point all focus on a single provision of the ACA – the individual mandate that says that everyone needs to have insurance coverage.  If they don’t, they have to pay a penalty at the end of the year.

Yesterday’s arguments focused on whether it’s okay to rule on the individual mandate and it’s penalty before it actually is in effect.  Arguments were primarily on something called the Anti-injunction act (AIA), which, in a nutshell says that you can’t challenge a tax in court until that tax has actually been imposed.  In the case of the ACA, the “tax” being discussed is the penalty folks have to pay if they don’t have insurance, which doesn’t go into effect until 2015.

It’s not clear, however, whether the penalty is a “tax,” so yesterday’s arguments focused on whether the AIA actually applies.  Basically, it looks like all parties involved don’t really care if the AIA is relevant because they just want the issue settled already.  But, the Supreme Court has to do its due diligence and figure this out before they ultimately make a decision (expected in June).

Here are a couple of great recaps from the good folks at Health Affairs:

On the agenda for today (Day 2) will be whether or not Congress is actually allowed to set an individual mandate that requires folks to have insurance, and tomorrow (Day 3) will be on severability of the individual mandate from the rest of the law, and on the Medicaid expansion under the ACA.

If you’re still not feeling up to speed, here’s a great little primer on the issues that will be (and are being) covered in this week’s oral arguments, via Kaiser: