The Supreme Court agreed on Monday to consider the constitutionality of the legislation approved last year to revamp the U.S. health care system. The court indicated that it would examine not just whether the government can require people to buy health insurance but several other key issues as well.
Federal appeals courts have issued conflicting rulings on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which was designed to dramatically expand the number of Americans with insurance coverage while promising to rein in some cost increases in the health care system. More than two dozen states have challenged the law.
The high court will likely hear arguments on the legislation in March and issue a decision in June. In a reflection of the case’s importance, the court scheduled an unusually large amount of time – five and a half hours – for oral arguments.
The Concord Coalition has long emphasized the importance of curbing the rapid increases in health care spending in the United States, where health care consumes a much larger share of the Gross Domestic Product than in other countries with comparable or better health results. The cost containment measures in the legislation, while welcome, could have been stronger.
If the Supreme Court were to invalidate the law, Congress would need to quickly pass new cost-control measures that are at least as strong as those approved last year. If key financing provisions were rejected, elected officials would have to resist the temptation to keep the most popular elements of the legislation without ensuring that they would be financed in a responsible way.
Even if the law were upheld, elected officials would still need to continue to work on ways to restrain the rapid rise in health care costs, which is one of the key drivers of the country’s large projected budget deficits.