Huffpost Politics

Supreme Court Health Care Ruling: Individual Mandate Decision May Be Announced Thursday [UPDATED]

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UPDATE: The Supreme Court did not announce a ruling on the health care case or the Arizona immigration law Thursday. The next time to announce decisions is Monday.

EARLIER: The Supreme Court's ruling on President Obama's health care law could be announced Thursday morning, a development that would have major implications regardless of the decision.

As HuffPost's Supreme Court correspondent Mike Sacks reported, the verdict is anyone's guess:

During oral arguments in late March, the court's five Republican-appointed justices appeared to lean strongly toward invalidating the Affordable Care Act's individual health-insurance mandate. The four Democrat appointees lined up solidly behind the law. Still, views may have softened in the weeks since the arguments, and the complexity of the issues involved may have left some room for twists and turns as the justices sat down to write their opinions.

After prolonged anticipation, the court is expected to hand down its decision on whether the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate is constitutional by the end of the month. If no ruling is issued on Thursday, the decision could come next Monday. The justices could also decide to add more decision days next week, further adding to the uncertainty of when the ruling will arrive.

The implications of the decision remain unclear. As the New Republic's Jonathan Cohn points out, the justices "could issue multiple opinions, with different justices ruling to uphold or strike down different parts of the law," making it difficult to discern the majority ruling and its consequences at first glance.

There are a variety of possible outcomes of the Supreme Court's decision, but Cohn outlines the four most likely scenarios: the court upholds the law entirely, the court strikes down the individual mandate but keeps the rest of the law, the court strikes down the individual mandate and the Medicaid expansion but retains the rest of the law, or the court strikes down the law entirely.

If the court does decide to strike down the Affordable Care Act, the implications reach beyond the issue of health care. The role of the Supreme Court would also come into question.

"If the court does overturn the mandate, it's going to be hard to know how to react," Mother Jones' Kevin Drum wrote earlier this week. "It would mean that the Supreme Court had officially entered an era where they were frankly willing to overturn liberal legislation just because they don't like it. Pile that on top of Bush v. Gore and Citizens United and you have a Supreme Court that's pretty explicitly chosen up sides in American electoral politics. This would be, in no uncertain terms, no longer business as usual."

If Obama's health care overhaul does stand up to scrutiny, there are still many Americans who won't be covered by the law. As the Associated Press reported, the law will expand coverage to approximately 30 million uninsured individuals. However, about 26 million people will still go without insurance, including many who cannot afford to pay out-of-pocket.

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