Health Policy Hangs in the Judicial Balance

In case we haven’t met, hi–I’m Molly and I’m a huge fan of School House Rock. Thanks those VHS’, I grew loving the checks and balances built into our government–the legislative branch creates the laws, the executive branch enforces the law, and the judicial branch interprets laws as constitutional or unconstitutional. Today we’re going to focus on the Supreme Court, the ultimate arbiter of the judicial branch. It is comprised of nine Justices with a lifetime appointment who hear and rule on cases that question federal constitutional issues or conflicts between states.

If you’ve been on social media, any news site, or turned on the T.V., you know that Judge Brett Kavanaugh has been nominated to fill the current Supreme Court vacancy. But we’re not going to delve into the allegations of sexual assault against him or the Judiciary Committee majority’s complete disregard for process, order, or even common decency today. No, we’re going to talk about the impact that one person, Judge Kavanaugh, can have on the entire U.S. health care system.Health care has certainly been on the agenda at #SCOTUS in nearly every recent decade as the federal government as gotten more involved in that policy area since creating the Medicare and Medicaid programs in 1965. But even dating back to Jacobson v. Massachusetts in 1905, when the Supreme Court upheld the authority of states to enforce compulsory vaccination to protect the public health, SCOTUS has been involved in health issues.

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Legal Timeline of the ACA

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On March 23, 2010, the ACA was enacted into law and quickly plunged into seemingly never-ending, ever-evolving litigation. If you’ve found our site, you’re most likely not a lawyer, which makes it a bit more challenging to understand how we’ve gotten to this point in health law as it regards the ACA. 

Two key points that every individual should know: (1) the requirement that every state expand Medicaid was deemed unconstitutional however, the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) ruled that states could opt-in to the expansion [34 states including D.C. have expanded Medicaid]; and (2) the individual mandate is constitutional and still the law of the land [the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act repeals the financial penalty for not having insurance, but does not repeal the language of the mandate].

Below are some of the big milestones in the ACA’s legal history.

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