The Supreme Court is expected to make a major decision on health care reform Thursday, one that has been highly anticipated for some time. Brandon Walker has more.
UNITED STATES -- As the clock ticks, the rumor mill grinds. But it's important that we pay close attention to what's at issue here. It's not the entire law, just arguably the heart of it all: A clause called Individual Mandate.
At over 2,700 pages, it’s larger than five reams of copy paper. Two words in particular, Individual Mandate, are the heart of the health care reform bill, as well the legal fight against it.
"It's actually not that difficult an issue. That’s the crazy thing about all of this," said Albany law professor Vincent Bonventre.
What's perceived by opponents as unconstitutional, says Albany Law Professor Vincent Bonventre, is that the healthcare reform bill requires nearly everyone to be insured by 2014 or face a fine. The legalese, supporters argue, buoyed by the commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution.
Bonventre said, “If you were to ask somebody who studies the constitution, somebody who studies constitutional law, and knows about the Supreme Court's previous cases on commerce power, the federal government, they would say this is an easy case. Of course the federal government has this power."
However, the fate of that power rests in the hands of nine ideologically split Supreme Court justices.
Thursday's decision is likely to be one of three options:
- Keep the law as is, individual mandate included
- Get rid of individual mandate, striking it as unconstitutional, keeping, though, other provisions, like insurers covering pre-existing conditions
- Getting rid of it all
"I think all of us who are trying to provide care to people that don't have insurance believe that health care ought to be a right. But the question really is how do you provide it and who pays for it?" asked Bill Spolyar, Executive Director of Schenectady Free Health Clinic.
Then there's this. The law was passed without its own insurance policy, if you will. It's called a severability clause. If one part of a law is deemed unconstitutional, the rest of the law can stay in place, though. Without one, as the health care law does not have one, the Supreme Court has every right to keep as much or as little as it would like.
"So it may be that the court will say this law makes no sense without the individual mandate. You can't just sever that. That’s the core of the law," Bonventre said.
And then there's a Supreme Court that's split along party lines. Four justices traditionally voting as republicans, four others as democrats and one who toes the line.
"I think they're going to uphold it. I think the four libs are definitely going to vote to uphold it and I think, again, Justice Kennedy, the swing vote, may go with the liberals," Bonventre said.
Professor Bonventre adds this isn't the most controversial challenge to the commerce clause, though. The court's decision will have more to do with partisan differences rather than questioning whether individual mandate is truly constitutional.