As you’ve probably seen in the news media, there will be a long road ahead in getting a final answer to the legal challenges to the Affordable Care Act. The Obama
administration will appeal the ruling (and possibly also request a stay of the ruling) by a Florida judge. U.S.
District Judge Roger Vinson in Pensacola found that the individual
responsibility provision (aka “mandate”) was unconstitutional as it exceeded
the power of Congress to regulate commerce.
Three other courts have previously ruled on the
constitutionality of the law, two of them upholding it. In the third case, U.S.
District Judge Henry Hudson in Richmond, Virginia, struck down the individual
responsibility provisions but did not strike down the rest of the Affordable
Care Act. That ruling is also
under appeal. It’s expected that
the U.S. Supreme Court will make the final decision on legal questions raised
by opponents of the Affordable Care Act. Meanwhile, states that use the ruling as an excuse not to
move forward with implementing the new law run a significant risk as a
resolution of this legal question could take years. Besides delaying the benefits of the Affordable Care Act for their residents, they would risk having the federal government intervene if
they haven’t made adequate progress in establishing health insurance exchanges by January 1,
Michael Miller of Community Catalyst shared these
insights with readers of the Health Policy Hub:
“Essentially the ruling has no immediate practical
significance other than providing fresh ammunition for the attack dogs who were
quick to seize on it. It doesn’t really change the calculus with regard to
implementation. Federal regulators will certainly move ahead and the situation
is not much different in the states. Since all or most of the ACA that pertains
to states is likely to survive the legal challenges, the consequences of
inaction are too significant for state government to sit back and do nothing
while the court cases play out. For example, state administrations politically
opposed to the ACA who want to use this ruling as an excuse for inaction risk
turning over the operation of the Exchange (and the keys to Medicaid
eligibility) in their state to the federal government.”
He encouraged people to focus on more immediate threats
to the Affordable Care Act such as efforts to repeal the maintenance-of-effort
In another development, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell plans to attempt to attach an amendment to the FAA bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act as early as today (which would make Jocelyn Guyer’s comparison of the re-debate of ACA to Ground Hog Day even more fitting.) If you want to know our view on the repeal efforts, please re-read Jocelyn’s blog as nothing has changed about how important the Affordable Care Act is to the American people. Congress has grappled with health reform for far too many Ground Hog Days to turn the clock back now.
We’ll have more on the legal challenges and repeal efforts in future blogs so please stay tuned.