The U.S. Supreme Court announced today that it would hear a major case against Washington’s health care law. The case, brought against the federal government by 26 states, challenges the individual mandate portion of the law. The constitutionality of the individual mandate is not only the most controversial aspect of the law, but also acts as a kind of foundation for the law, operationally speaking.
Perhaps even more importantly, the Supreme Court will look at “severability.” This means that if the court declares the individual mandate unconstitutional, they will also consider if the rest of the law can survive without this key component. This process leaves open the possibility the entire law may be scrapped, hidden taxes and all.
A ruling is expected in June and one of three outcomes seems likely. First, the Court could declare the individual mandate constitutional and leave the rest of the law on track for full implementation. Second, they could declare the individual mandate unconstitutional, but say that the rest of the law can survive (this outcome is the hardest to imagine, given how difficult it would be to implement other provisions without the mandate.) Lastly, the individual mandate could be declared unconstitutional, and the rest of the law could come down with it.
Political implications aside, the third outcome – in which the mandate is stricken and the house of cards falls around it – is the best for our economy, for those who need assistance with health care and for our country.
It’s going to be an interesting seven months.