On June 28, 2012, the Supreme Court issued its decision in a trio of cases which challenged the constitutionality of certain provisions in the Affordable Care Act. Ultimately, a majority of the justices concluded that the Act’s “individual mandate” was not authorized by the Commerce Clause. U.S. Const. Art. I, §8, cl. 3. At the same time, though, a different majority of the justices concluded that the provision was within Congress’ power to “lay and collect taxes.” U.S. Const. Art. I, §8, cl. 1. The Affordable Care Act therefore has survived its primary constitutional challenges to date.
In its decision, the Court was careful to note that it was withholding comment on the wisdom of the means Congress selected to pursue its goal of increasing the number of Americans covered by health insurance. Each of the justices joined in an opinion which professed in some way that such policy questions were not for the Court to decide. To be sure, the public remains divided in its support for the legislation, and the national election in November 2012 is likely to spark further debate about whether to expand, contract or otherwise substantively change the Affordable Care Act. In the meantime, the Affordable Care Act still promises to have a profound impact on health insurers, employers and virtually every American citizen.
An understanding of the Affordable Care Act’s main provisions and the key changes for which they call therefore is essential to the advice we can provide to our clients.
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