WASHINGTON - When President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law in 2010, supporters said it would give tens of millions of Americans health insurance and save taxpayers billions of dollars.
But 26 states sued, arguing Congress had gone too far in mandating the purchase of health insurance.
Professor Phillip Cooper teaches public administration at Portland State University. He's advised both Congress and the White House on congressional and presidential powers.
He said one of the biggest challenges to the law is the individual mandate which forces tens of millions of Americans to buy health insurance or pay a fine.
Will the Supreme Court say it goes too far? And if so, is it severable, meaning if the court strikes that part down, does it kill the entire law?
“The concern here is ... there are a lot of things that many Americans like, like covering their children for a longer period of time,” said Professor Cooper. “Like not having pre-existing conditions be allowed to stop you from being insured. Like not having annual or lifetime caps on your insurance. If the court says 'no, we can't sever it,' then the whole thing would go and all those provisions would go," he said.
Even if it is severable and the rest of the law remains, it could throw the system into chaos, since forcing all those new people to buy insurance is supposed to help pay for all the other people and conditions who would also be covered.
“If part of this goes, and particularly the individual mandate goes, then all of those dollars and cents calculations have to be done over again. Just like they have to be done here at the state like they have to be done by your employer, like they have to be done by your insurer, like they have to be done by your doctor,” Cooper said.
The law also raises the income level for people to qualify for Medicaid, giving millions coverage who are not considered poor but make too little to afford health insurance.
But one question before the court, are the required actions to get that money too burdensome?
Cooper believes the court will say no, they are not. But if the court says yes it is, he believes it could open the doors for years of legal challenges to other federal mandates.
“I guess what I would encourage most of all, please, don’t just listen for they upheld it or they did’t uphold it they struck it down. Please listen for what did they say about the powers of congress," he said.