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How the Supreme Court health care ruling will happen on Thursday

June 25, 2012 by NCC Staff


Thursday will be the day when the U.S. Supreme Court finally decides the constitutionality of President Barack Obama’s health care program. Here is a quick guide on what to expect.

UPDATE: Supreme Court Approves Most Of The ACA

First, there could be several decisions announced on Thursday, starting at 10 a.m. EST., including a case about real estate, one about lying about military honors, and the health care case.

There are no live cameras in the courtroom, despite some recent requests from politicians to put the decision on live TV.

Our friends at SCOTUSblog, including Constitution Daily contributor Lyle Denniston, will be at the court blogging.

You can check their live blog at starting at 9 a.m. They also will talk about the background of cases and the procedures followed by the Court.

Constitution Daily will have its own coverage starting at 10 a.m.

At 10 a.m., the Court will start presenting its decisions. The expectation is that the other cases would be announced first, and then the health care case would be announced as the final decision. That would put the ETA for the health care decision after 10:15 a.m.

Because of the complexity of the health care decision, several justices are expected to read opinions.

If the entire Affordable Care Act (ACA) is found constitutional, or unconstitutional, that will become apparent quickly, as that statement appears at the top of the printed decision given to journalists and read out loud by the justice representing the majority opinion.

Another scenario is that certain sections of the ACA could be struck down, but not the entire act.

In that case, more time will be needed for analysis as experts comb through the opinions.

The two key components the justices could strike down are the individual mandate (which requires people to carry health insurance or pay a fine) and the expansion of Medicaid at a state level.

But there are plenty of other “moving parts” in the ACA that could face judicial review.

The Poynter Institute has published an analysis for journalists, which does a good job of summarizing the possible outcomes on Thursday.

There are likely five top-level outcomes:

1. The ACA is held as constitutional

2. The ACA is not constitutional

3. The individual mandate part of the ACA isn’t constitutional

4. The insurance reform section of the ACA doesn’t stand, for various reasons

5. The public programs (Medicaid) section of the ACA doesn’t stand, for various reasons

The “various reasons” for scenarios 4 and 5 could depend on the need for the money from the individual mandate to finance the entire program – or the legal merit of the programs.

By 10:30 a.m., there will be a gigantic amount of political spin from Democrats and Republicans, especially if the Court doesn’t reject or approve the entire ACA.

Policy experts and journalists will try their best to break down the findings for consumers. That is much easier to do if the Court upholds the entire law. There is a lot of uncertainty about what happens if the entire law is struck down.

Several weeks ago, we had six health care legal experts at the National Constitution Center talking about the long-term political outcomes of the health care decision.

They viewed the case as a milestone in the relationship between Congress and the Supreme Court, and that regardless of the outcome, the public was now much-better educated about health care reform.

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