The Supreme Court is expected to announce on Thursday morning its decision on the health care overhaul that President Obama signed into law in 2010 — an act of Congress thousands of pages long, containing hundreds of changes costing hundreds of billions of dollars and affecting nearly every American from cradle to grave.
But the nine justices are expected to answer only a few principal questions, stemming from a handful of conflicting lower court decisions. Although the arguments are complex, the questions are fairly straightforward.
First, and perhaps above all, did Congress overstep its powers when it passed the “individual mandate” requiring virtually all Americans to obtain health insurance or pay a penalty? If a majority finds that it did, the most prominent feature of the law will be overturned.
Second, if the justices strike down the mandate, what other parts of the law are so closely tied to its centerpiece that they must also fall? Both the Obama administration and the law’s opponents have argued that two other provisions — requiring companies to sell policies to anyone who applies and prohibiting insurers from charging extra to sick people — should fall, to keep the insurance market functioning.
But not all experts agree with that argument, and the justices could decide to strike down only the mandate — or to strike down the entire statute.