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The Affordable Care Act turns two in court

A banner marking the anniversary of
A banner marking the anniversary of "ObamaCare" is seen outside of the Republican National Committee office on March 23, 2012 in Washington, DC. Health care reform was signed into law by US President Barack Obama on March 23, 2010.

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The Obama administration goes to trial today in front of the Supreme Court to defend its Affordable Care Act, which – beginning in 2014 – will require that every individual purchase health insurance. Twenty-six states, plus the National Federation of Independent Business, have challenged the Act, claiming that it “exceeds Congress’ power to regulate interstate commerce.”

Arguments are slated to last three days, with Monday’s hearing centered on whether it is valid for the Court to rule on the individual insurance mandate before it has gone into effect. Whether the mandate is constitutional, whether the rest of the law can stand without the mandate, and whether the possible expansion of Medicaid coverage is legal will be argued on Tuesday and Wednesday. Decisions will not be announced until later this summer, if not early fall.

Conventional opinion is that the Supreme Court will rule against the Act along partisan lines (Republican appointees hold a 5-4 majority), but critics have also pointed out that multiple conservative judges in the lower courts have upheld the bill. Their argument has been that “most people will eventually enter or affect the insurance market,” which does give Congress the right to regulate. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Anthony Kennedy, both Republican appointees, have also been singled out for past decisions that indicate they could be persuaded by the Obama administration’s argument.

If you haven’t already read up, today’s your day to brush up!


Greg Stohr, Bloomberg News Supreme Court reporter

Ilya Somin, associate law professor, George Mason University School of Law; editor, Supreme Court Economic Review

Vikram Amar, associate dean, Academic Affairs; law professor, , UC Davis School of Law