Supreme Court Hears Arguments on Constitutionality of Health Care Reform Today

Supporters and protestors gather outside the U.S. Supreme Court today as the first of three days of oral arguments on the consitutionality of the controversial Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, collectively known as health care reform, begin.

Today’s topic is whether the Supreme Court can even hear the case now. The Court must decide whether an obscure 19th-century law, the Anti-Injunction Act, means that the Court cannot pass judgment on the law until after its key provisions go into effect in 2014. Assuming the Court decides the case can be heard, it will be determining whether it is constitutional for Congress to require Americans to either purchase health care insurance or pay a penalty—the individual mandate.

Should the Court strike down the individual mandate, the question becomes what can practically remain of health care reform without it? One of the most popular provisions, providing coverage to individuals with pre-existing health conditions, will likely be unworkable without the individual mandate.

The Court’s decision is expected in June. MSEC will keep you informed of the outcome.