High Court's Decision about PPACA Will Be a Close Call

April 4, 2012 (PLANSPONSOR.com) – The U.S. Supreme Court’s final decision on the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) will be a close call, according to Jennifer Kraft, an attorney with Seyfarth Shaw. 

During an interview with PLANSPONSOR, Kraft discussed the oral arguments the Supreme Court heard for three days last week in regards the PPACA, including the individual health care mandate. A final decision on the constitutionality of the PPACA will be released in June.

Kraft, who attended the arguments last week, said, “It was fascinating to see the discussions on the individual mandates and the severability issue.”

Kraft said Justice Anthony Kennedy will be the swing vote on the matter.

She added that it will especially be a close decision in regards to the individual mandate, which requires all Americans to purchase health insurance by 2014 or face a penalty. She said however, it seems like the court may rule the mandate unconstitutional.

Kraft stated that if the PPACA is found constitutional, the big changes will take place in 2014 for employers in the play-or-pay piece of the law. This portion of the law requires employers with 50 or more employees to provide minimal health care coverage to all full-time workers. Kraft mentions that a unique part of this requirement is that the law considers full-time workers those who work 30 hours or more per week.

“The way the play-or-pay piece works is if employers do not provide the coverage, they will have to pay a penalty,” said Kraft. She added that during the Supreme Court hearings last week, the employer mandate was only discussed on the day the severability argument was debated.

“The individual mandate piece is the heart of the affordable care act. The focus of the arguments was on the individual mandate piece,” said Kraft.

“From the employers’ perspective, if the law is found constitutional, they will need to move forward. If the law is found unconstitutional, they will need to look at where the court comes out in terms of severability.” Kraft added, “If [the court] only strikes down the individual mandate, employers will still need to prepare [for 2014].”

(Also see “U.S. Supreme Court Begins Hearing Health Care Reform Case,” “Employers Express Desired Outcome of Supreme Court ACA Ruling,” “Supreme Court Justices Question Excessive Authority of Health Care Mandate” and “Parts of Health Care Law Could Be Thrown Out”).