HHS argues for keeping rest of ACA if mandate thrown out
If the U.S. Supreme Court decides that it must throw out the healthcare reform law’s requirement that private individuals buy insurance, then the court should also invalidate provisions in the law that force insurers to offer coverage to almost anyone who wants to buy it, the HHS said in a legal brief. However, HHS argued in a filing with the court that the elimination of those three insurance provisions should not doom the rest of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which contains many provisions the agency argues can stand on their own. Many opponents of the law argue the court should declare the entire statute void if the justices rule the mandate to be unconstitutional. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta—the only appellate court to invalidate any part of the law—ruled Aug. 12 that the rest of the law could stand without the mandate. HHS argued in the brief that if the court finds the individual mandate “severable” from the law, then it must also eliminate the provisions on “community rating” and “guaranteed issue” of insurance, which require insurers to offer coverage without regard to health status at standardized prices. Insurance companies have long argued that forcing them to offer insurance to anyone without a corresponding individual mandate to carry coverage could trigger a financial “death spiral” for insurers, since beneficiaries could buy insurance, for example, in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. The Supreme Court has granted three days of oral arguments, March 26-28, on the constitutionality of the law.