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Health Law Debated in Supreme Court

March 26, 2012
by Gabriel Perna
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The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is being challenged in the U.S. Supreme Court, after multiple lawsuits from 26 different states took on various provisions of it, with detractors arguing for the law's unconstitutionality during the oral arguments taking place this week. The nation's highest court is examining the healthcare reform law, which was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Barack Obama in March 2010. Of the four federal appellate court rulings preceding the Supreme Court's consideration of the law, two upheld the ACA in its entirety; one ruled the plaintiffs to be without legal standing to bring a case; and a fourth struck down the individual mandate for health insurance purchase as unconstitutional.

The Supreme Court's nine justices will reportedly make a final decision in June. If the court's majority rules the law unconstitutional, it would deal a policy and political setback to President Obama and Democrats in Congress, who have championed healthcare reform as a centerpiece legislative achievement. Meanwhile, all the major Republican presidential candidates have vowed to overturn the ACA legislatively if elected.

Two major aspects of the ACA being debated this week in oral arguments are the individual mandate, which requires most Americans to maintain a minimum level of health insurance by 2014 or pay a penalty (administered as a tax), and the Medicaid expansion. One federal appellate court has struck down the constitutionality of the individual mandate, while none have ruled against the Medicaid expansion. For a complete look at all of the issues the Supreme Court will debate when it comes to the ACA, check out this guide from the non-profit Kaiser Family Foundation.

For those inclined to check out the opening arguments to the ACA case, the Supreme Court has posted them on its website.

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