On March 26 through 28, 2012, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the Obama Administration's attempt to extend health care insurance coverage to millions of additional individuals, underwent an unprecedented three days of oral argument before the U.S. Supreme Court. On day one, the Court dealt with the question of whether the cases being appealed were ripe for judicial decision-making, since the provisions of the law dealing with the mandate to purchase insurance and the extensions of the Medicaid program are not scheduled to come into effect until 2014. Impressions from the Justices' questions during oral argument suggest that the Court will be inclined to address the issues during the current term because of the significance of the issues and the extreme public interest in bringing them to fruition.
On March 27, the Court heard arguments on the constitutionality of the controversial mandate provision. The Commerce Clause in the Constitution and Congress' taxing powers were important areas of exploration during the questioning by the Justices of the attorneys' presentations. Justice Kennedy, who is regarded as a possible deciding influence between the divisions within the Court's judicial leanings, was particularly aggressive during the questioning, with much speculation by pundits and the media as to what the impact will be at decision time. Opponents of the mandate stressed that, if allowed to go forward, it would signal a dangerous extension of Congress' powers. Support for the mandate rested upon the uniqueness of health care and the need for universal participation in sharing the burden of the cost.
The arguments on March 28, 2012, were devoted to the issues concerning the extensions of Medicaid coverage and the challenging question as to whether, if certain provisions like the mandate are declared to be unconstitutional, the remainder of the law could survive or whether a judicial finding undoing key provisions would cause the entire law to be struck down.
Based upon traditional decision-making procedures by the Court, when dealing with the most significant cases considered during a given term, it is expected that final decisions affecting the fate of the ACA will be issued towards the end of June.