Observations Yankee Doodling

US Supreme Court considers Obama’s health reform law

BMJ 2011; 343 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.d7579 (Published 23 November 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;343:d7579
  1. Douglas Kamerow, chief scientist, RTI International, and associate editor, BMJ
  1. dkamerow{at}rti.org

Will it matter what the justices decide?

The big news here last week was that the Supreme Court has agreed to consider the constitutionality of the healthcare reform law. The nine justices (there have been calls on both sides for individual justices to recuse themselves because of conflicts of interest, but apparently none will) are scheduled to hear the case in March 2012.1 They have set aside an unprecedented five and a half hours for each oral argument, indicating the importance of the issue. This would put them on a course to announce their decision in late June, right in the middle of the US presidential election campaign.

The key question is whether Congress has the authority to require all US citizens to either buy health insurance or pay a fine. No one is surprised that the justices decided to take on this so called “individual mandate” provision (about which more below), but many did not expect them to invite arguments on three other issues as well. These are whether Congress can require states to expand their Medicaid programmes (which are …

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