U.S. Supreme Court

In Health Law 'Doubleheader,' Supreme Court to Weigh Severability, Medicaid Expansion


The Obama administration will argue before the U.S. Supreme Court today that two other parts of the health law must fall if the insurance mandate is struck down.

The arguments on severability take place this morning, while the court will consider the law’s Medicaid expansion in an “afternoon finale,” Fox News reports. Fox terms the arguments a Supreme Court “doubleheader.”

The 2,700-page health law does not have a severability clause specifying which provisions would survive an adverse ruling on the requirement that Americans should buy health insurance or pay a penalty, the Washington Post reports.

The administration argues that a provision requiring insurers to cover pre-existing conditions would have to fall along with the insurance mandate, since people could wait until they get sick to obtain coverage, according to the Post and the New York Times.

A second provision that would have to fall sets limits on how insurers charge for coverage, the administration argues. Under the law, rates can vary based only on age, geographic location and tobacco use, and the amount of variation is capped, the Post says.

Challengers will argue the entire law must fall along with the insurance mandate. An appointed lawyer, H. Bartow Farr III, will argue that the rest of the law will survive.

At issue in afternoon arguments will be whether Congress can force states to expand Medicaid to include more low-income people, according to the Post and a prior New York Times story.

The Post says the Medicaid decision could have a lasting impact on the federal government’s ability to use its spending power to get states to act. “The Supreme Court has said there is a limit to what the government can force states to do in order to receive federal funds—a condition cannot be ‘so coercive as to pass the point at which pressure turns into compulsion,’ ” the Post says. “But the court has yet to find a case where the federal government has gone too far.”

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