|By MARK SHERMAN and RICARDO ALONSO-ZALDIVAR, Associated Press|
Here is a look at six potential outcomes, from the simplest to the most complicated possible rulings:
Q. What if the
A. A decision in favor of the law would end the legal fight and allow the administration to push forward with implementing its provisions over the next few years, including the insurance requirement, an expansion of
The political wrangling, however, probably would continue as Republican candidates for president and lesser offices are calling for repeal of the law.
Q. What if, on the other hand, the court strikes down the entire law?
A. That would kill a costly new federal entitlement before it has a chance to take root and develop a constituency of beneficiaries and supporters, namely more than 30 million people who are supposed to wind up with health insurance because of the law.
In addition, some parts of the law already are in effect and would be rolled back. One popular provision allowing young adults to stay on their parents' insurance until age 26 has added nearly 2.5 million people to the coverage rolls, at no cost to taxpayers.
But there's no escaping America's double-barreled problem of excruciatingly high health care costs and many uninsured people, more than 50 million according to the latest estimates.
Whether it's dealing with the federal deficit, retirement security for seniors or even the
Q. What happens if the court strikes down the individual insurance requirement, but leaves the rest of the Affordable Care Act in place?
A. Knocking out the requirement that Americans carry insurance would not be the end of Obama's health care overhaul. There's a lot more in the 900-plus pages of the law.
But it would make the complicated legislation a lot harder to carry out, risking more complications for a U.S. health care system already seen as wasteful, unaffordable and unable to deliver consistently high quality.
Many fewer uninsured people would get covered. Ten million to 15 million people intended to get coverage under the law could be left out.
The cost of individually purchased private health insurance would jump. That would make it more expensive for the government to subsidize premiums, although millions of middle-class people would still be entitled to such assistance under the law's remaining provisions.
If the individual mandate is struck, the law's
And a host of other mandates would stay in place. Starting in 2014, medium-sized and large employers would be hit with fines for not providing coverage to their workers.
Insurance companies would be required to accept people with pre-existing medical problems, no longer allowed to cherry-pick the healthy to keep costs down. They would also be forbidden from imposing higher premiums on people in poor health, and limited in what they could charge older adults.
If that happens, premiums in the individual health insurance market would jump anywhere from 10 percent to 30 percent, according to various forecasts from economists.