The Two-Way
1:52 pm
Wed March 28, 2012

Wrapping Up Oral Arguments, Justices Disagree On Medicaid Expansion

The AP says there was strong disagreement between liberal and conservative Supreme Court justices on the question of whether the expansion of Medicaid in the health care law passed in 2010 is constitutional. At issue is whether the federal government can demand that states expand their Medicaid program.

The court's liberal wing, reports the AP, made it clear they were OK with expansion of the program for low-income Americans.

The AP reports:

"In the finale of three days of arguments over President Barack Obama's health care law, the justices indicated strong disagreement with a challenge from 26 states that calls the expansion of the joint state-federal program unconstitutionally coercive.

"More than 15 million people would get health care through Medicaid, and the federal government would pay all of the costs at first, dropping to 90 percent after about five years.

"Justice Elena Kagan wondered why 'a big gift' from the federal government could be considered coercive."

SCOTUSblog's read of the oral arguments finds that the questions were "too abstract" to give concrete hints as to how the justices would ultimately decide.

"One very plausible middle ground outcome would be to say that there are some limits on the federal government's ability to revoke all Medicaid funds in response to a state's decision just to refuse the expansion," Tom Goldstein writes at SCOTUSblog. "What those limits are would be left for another case. But I don see the Court going further than that."

This completes the oral arguments for this historic hearing on the Obama administration's health care overhaul law. The court will likely hand down its opinion in the matter at end of this term in June.

Earlier today, the court weighed whether the rest of the law could survive assuming the individual mandate was deemed unconstitutional.

Shots is taking the lead on rounding up NPR's coverage, which is also packaged here.

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