Monday, March 26, 2012

SCOTUS Takes Up Affordable Care Act

Public News Service-PA

(03/26/12) WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court today begins hearing arguments on the constitutionality of provisions of the Affordable Care Act, the national health care reform law. The justices will look at two provisions of the ACA: the mandate that everyone must have insurance, and the expansion of Medicaid.

Melissa Hart, director of the Byron R. White Center for the Study of American Constitutional Law, says it's hard to predict how the court will rule in the case. She says this is because the lower courts' opinions didn't demonstrate consistent rulings, an inconsistency that made it particularly important for the Supreme Court to take the case. Lower courts have for the most part ruled in favor of the law's constitutionality.

"In this case, it's really impossible to look for any tea leaves. It would have been, truly would have been irresponsible not to take it."

Pennsylvania is not on the list of the 26 states that are contesting the individual mandate.

Scott Moss, an associate professor of law at the University of Colorado, thinks the argument that the act violates the initial intent of America's founders is weak.

"One of the first laws Congress passed, called the Second Militia Act of 1792, did mandate that all private citizens have to buy a gun for the goal of military readiness."

Melissa Hart says the briefs in the case don't focus as much on constitutionality as on political policy.

"There's only so much that opponents of the act can say about the constitutional argument because there's not meat there. And so, that gets replaced with other kinds of arguments about the value or lack of value of the Act."

And she adds, the Court doesn't handle bad policies: that's a role for Congress. The Court is scheduled to hear arguments through Wednesday.

The SCOTUS ACA docket is at

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