A woman waits in an examination room for a doctor to check out her arm. (Source: mtsofan/Flickr)
The Supreme Court Justices pose for a picture in 2010. (Source: Steve Petteway/Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States/The Oyez Project)
President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and senior staff members celebrate as the House of Representatives passes the healthcare reform bill on March 21, 2010. (Source: Pete Souza/the White House)
WASHINGTON (RNN) - Just before the Supreme Court breaks for summer vacation, justices will hand down their decision on the constitutionality of the Obama Administration's 2010 healthcare law Thursday.
The ruling will come on the last day of decisions from the court.
According to Amy Howe, a part-time Supreme Court litigation professor at Harvard Law School, there is a chance the court could push their decision into their next term, which won't start until October. However, it's highly unlikely they will do so.
The court will determine whether the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) mandate that all Americans purchase health insurance by 2014 is an overextension of Congress's power.
The decision could have a massive impact on the cost of health insurance.
During arguments on March 27, conservative Justice Samuel Alito expressed concern that the mandate is "not requiring the people who are subject to it to pay for the services that they are going to consume ... It is requiring them to subsidize service that will be received by somebody else."
However, not all justices took issue with the mandate.
"It just seems very strange to me that there's no question we can have a Social Security system besides all the people who say, 'I'm being forced to pay for something that I don't want," liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said. She noted the legislation was working to make room for the private sector while still providing affordable care.
"There's something very odd about that," she said. "That the government can take over the whole thing [as in Social Security] and we all say, 'Oh, yes, that's fine,' but if the government wants to preserve private insurers, it can't do that."
If justices strike down the mandate and uphold the rest of the healthcare bill - which includes a number of unrelated provisions aimed at bettering healthcare programs - it's likely health insurance premiums will rise.
The ACA was passed in 2010 and includes provisions barring health insurance companies from denying coverage to people who have "preexisting conditions." The individual mandate would help insurance companies meet the costs of insuring people who are likely to need ongoing care.
Without the mandate, there is little incentive for Americans to get insurance before they need it, meaning insurance companies will have to shoulder the costs of covering sick individuals. The ACA would have otherwise widened the pool of health insurance consumers, giving companies more financial resources to pull from.
The court could go either way in its decision, with four justices leaning on the liberal side and four on the conservative side. Justice Anthony Kennedy is expected to be the court's swing vote.
The court could find the entire bill unconstitutional.
That would mean unrelated provisions in the nearly 3,000-page long bill would have to move through Congress again for approval.
The unrelated provisions include easing the proof needed for former miners and coal workers to get benefits while suffering from black lung disease. The disease is caused by an exposure to coal dust and causes chronic respiratory problems.
The bill also includes a popular provision which extends benefits for dependants age 26 and younger. An estimated 3 million people have gotten insurance through this provision alone.
Conservative Justice Antonin Scalia noted the main purpose of the mandate is to support the other functions of the ACA, saying it was better to scrap the whole bill and have lawmakers start from scratch than to leave them with a gutted piece of legislation.
"When have we ever really struck down what was the main purpose of the act, and left the rest in effect?" Scalia asked during arguments on March 28.
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