October 20, 2014

Supreme Court Considers Health Care Law

  • The American health care system is a patchwork of public and private programs that serve citizens in different ways, depending on their age, military...

The U.S. Supreme Court is hearing arguments today on the constitutionality of a provision in the 2010 health care law that will require most Americans to buy health insurance or face financial penalties.

This is the second day of oral arguments over the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which  revamps the health care system. On Monday the court heard arguments about whether it could decide the case now rather than waiting until after the government began collecting the penalties.

An 1867 law restricts lawsuits that could restrain tax collections in advance, and some argue that the penalties are essentially taxes. Questions and comments from the justices yesterday, however, indicated that they intend to rule on the case sooner rather than later.

The Concord Coalition has applauded the ACA’s attempt to pay for expanded coverage in a deficit-neutral manner, but many of the cost-containment measures may be difficult to maintain over time and others rely on unproven strategies that are worth pursuing but might not turn out to be effective.

For that reason, Concord has criticized efforts in Congress to do away with the law’s Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), which was designed to help rein in Medicare costs if they increase too rapidly. Last week the House approved a bill to abolish the panel.

If the Supreme Court were to strike down the ACA, Congress would need to quickly pass new cost-control measures that are at least as strong as those in the law. If the court rejected key financing provisions, elected officials should not keep the more popular parts of the legislation without ensuring that they will be paid for in a responsible way.