Having achieved its two-year anniversary on Friday, the Affordable Care Act reaches for a new milestone today as the Supreme Court begins its landmark constitutional review of the law.
The justices will hear six hours of oral arguments over the next three days — the longest arguments in 45 years — regarding the constitutionality of several of its key provisions.
Before getting to the elements of the law in question, however, the court must first determine whether it can make a judgment on the law before its provisions take effect in 2014. The justices today will hear arguments whether the 19th century Anti-Injunction Act bars court action.
According to a Washington Post report, “It is the rare issue on which both sides agree: the Obama administration lawyers and those representing the states and private organization challenging the new law argue that the Supreme Court should decide the constitutional question now.”
Tomorrow, the justices will convene for two hours on the individual mandate, the most contested portion of the law, which requires nearly all Americans to have health insurance.
On Wednesday, the court will take up the issue of severability, which raises whether the rest of the health reform law can stand if the individual mandate is struck down. The justices will also hear arguments about whether the measure can achieve its coverage goals through expansion of the Medicaid program, run as a federal-state partnership where state participation is voluntary.
Public health advocates eagerly anticipate the court’s action. APHA signed on to two friend-of-the-court briefs with other health groups in support of the law.
“The health reform law is a signature public health achievement that offers opportunities to modernize the delivery of health care in this country unlike we’ve ever seen before,” said APHA Executive Director Georges Benjamin in a statement. “We are at a historic crossroads to make a real difference in the health and well-being of the American people. I strongly urge the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold this historic law.”
A new APHA Web page has resources devoted to the case and will be updated through the court’s decision, which is expected near the end of its term in late June.