What Is the Supreme Court Really Deciding?

Health Care Decision

June 27, 2012

WASHINGTON (WENY) -- It’s been a divisive issue from the beginning – debated in town halls all the way up to the Supreme Court.  On Thursday, all eyes will be on the nation’s highest court for a decision on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act. 


Here’s what could happen:  the Supreme Court could uphold the entire Affordable Care Act, they could toss the whole thing out, or rule parts of it unconstitutional.


“I think you’re very likely to see a divided court,” said Robert Alt, the Director of Rule of Law Programs at the conservative think-tank The Heritage Foundation. 


Alt believes if part of the law is thrown out, it will be the individual mandate, which would require almost all Americans to purchase health insurance or pay a fine.  Alt, and other analysts, look at the oral arguments to predict how they think the court will rule.


“The questions seemed to be generally a bit more hostile to the mandate, and we’ll see if that ultimately holds up when the Court makes its decision,” explained Alt.


The court isn’t deciding whether the health care law is good police.  Instead, they’ll be answering four questions.


-Can Congress force Americans to buy health insurance?

-Can parts of the health care law be severed from the whole thing?

-Does the health care law's expansion of the Medicaid program unfairly force the states to participate?

-And, the procedural issue -- can the Supreme Court even rule on this case?


Whatever decision the court makes will set a precedent that lower courts will follow and the Supreme Court will use in future cases.


“If the Court were to uphold the mandate, what’s the next move by Congress?  Are they going to use this authority?  What impact is this going to have on the limitations on Congress and the federal government?” said Alt.


No matter what the court decides, all the experts we talked to say the issue of health care reform will be debated again by Congress and become a huge campaign issue in the presidential race.  We’ll know what the Supreme Court decides by 11:00 a.m. Thursday.