Focus turns to completing 2012 and 2013 compliance tasks following the U.S. Supreme Court's decision.
Today, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that virtually the entire Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (ACA) is constitutional (with the exception of a Medicaid issue that is not directly relevant to employers), validating the full range of past, present, and future ACA requirements. Employers now must continue to press ahead with 2012 and 2013 ACA compliance requirements, particularly if these tasks were placed on a back burner awaiting the decision.
Writing for a 5-4 majority in National Federation of Independent Business et al. v. Sebelius, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., found that the individual mandate in the ACA is a permissible exercise of Congress's taxing authority, stating that "[t]he Affordable Care Act's requirement that certain individuals pay a financial penalty for not obtaining health insurance may reasonably be characterized as a tax." Chief Justice Roberts also wrote that "because the Constitution permits such a tax, it is not our role to forbid it, or to pass upon its wisdom or fairness." Chief Justice Roberts was joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, Stephen G. Breyer, and Elena Kagan. Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony M. Kennedy, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Anthony Alito, Jr., dissented.
Next Steps for Employers
Now that the ACA has been upheld, employer group health plans must focus on a number of pressing tasks for 2012 and 2013 compliance with the ACA. In the coming weeks and months, employers should do the following:
While the Supreme Court decision is an important milestone in the federal debate over expanding healthcare coverage, it likely represents just the first in a series of future federal discussions and actions in the coming months and years.
The federal debate now moves to the November election cycle. The ACA no doubt will play a large role in the upcoming elections, but it is premature to expect any quick legislative reversals to ACA provisions, as any changes would require a significant shift in power.
In the interim, employer group health plans should continue to examine and implement those ACA requirements that will be effective in 2012, 2013, and later years into the design and operation of their group health plans.
We will release future LawFlashes and hold webinars as further guidance becomes available.
Our prior LawFlashes on the ACA, as well as material and opinions from today's webinar, can now be found in one location. Please visit our Healthcare Policy and Reform resource page.
If you have any questions or would like more information on the issues discussed in this LawFlash, please contact any of the following Employee Benefits attorneys or the Resource Team Member contacts listed on our Healthcare Policy and Reform resource page:
Saghi (Sage) Fattahian
Craig A. Bitman
Gary S. Rothstein
S. James DiBernardo
Robert L. Abramowitz
I. Lee Falk
Amy Pocino Kelly
Robert J. Lichtenstein
Steven D. Spencer
Mims Maynard Zabriskie
David B. Zelikoff
Althea R. Day
David R. Fuller
Mary B. (Handy) Hevener
Gregory L. Needles