Healthcare Showdown at the Supreme Court (Part 2)

With Obamacare headed for the Supreme Court on March 26, Legal Lad explores the 4 major issues facing the highest court in the land. Today: "severability"

Adam Freedman
1-minute read

This is the second in my series of articles about the major issues at stake in next week’s arguments at the Supreme Court regarding the constitutionality of the new federal health care law, known as the Affordable Care Act (ACA). 

In my previous post, I discussed the “individual mandate,” the part of ACA that creates a legal duty to obtain health insurance.  It is at least possible that the Court will find that the individual mandate exceeds Congress’ authority under the Constitution.

But if the Court does strike down the individual mandate, what happens to the rest of ACA?  The law is over 2,700 pages long – suffice it to say there’s a lot in there besides the individual mandate.  However, the individual mandate is the part that is supposed to make the whole thing affordable.  By requiring younger, healthier individuals to get health insurance, ACA aims to broaden the insurance pool and thus bring down premiums. 

It’s very common for federal statutes to include a so-called “severability clause,” which states that if any provision of the law is found to be invalid, the rest of the law will continue in operation.  But the ACA does not have a severability clause, so there is no clear answer as to whether Congress intended the healthcare law, or parts of it, to survive even without the individual mandate. 

Image courtesy of Shutterstock