It's not a prospect many legal observers took seriously until earlier today, but now that swing-vote Justice Anthony Kennedy has shown some of his true colors, everyone's wondering what will become of Obamacare if the court strikes down the individual mandate. The mandate, of course, requires everyone to buy insurance and was pitched as the big money-saving feature of the Affordable Care Act. But if it were wiped away, the president's signature legislative achievement would get very, very messy. Here are the possible outcomes.
Court strikes it down, everything falls apart This is the view posited by Rick Newman at U.S. News and World Report. "If the Supreme Court strikes down the individual mandate... it could be the loose thread that unravels the whole ball of string," he writes. "Since the mandate is meant to expand the pool of people covered by health insurance, it makes other parts of the law possible, such as subsidies for those who can't afford insurance and a ban on denying coverage because of pre-existing conditions. Without the mandate, those provisions might be unsustainable and the whole law could effectively become moot." Others think parts of the bill could be salvaged.
Court strikes it down, some of it falls apart Strangely enough, this would be the preference of the Obama administration, notes CBS News' Stephanie Condon. "The administration is arguing that without the mandate, more popular provisions like 'guaranteed issue' and 'community rating' won't work," she writes. "Guaranteed issue, which is nearly twice as popular among the public than the individual mandate, requires health insurers to cover everyone who applies, regardless of pre-existing conditions. Community rating requires insurers to offer plans within the same price range to all customers, regardless of factors like age. Should the Supreme Court strike down the mandate, the Obama administration has asked the court to kill those two provisions as well." Still, the court doesn't have to listen to the Obama administration's lawyers.