High Court Looks at Severability

Third day of Supreme Court hearings considers fate of health law minus universal mandate.

The U.S. Supreme Court today will consider how much of President Barack Obama’s health-care law must be thrown out if the justices decide Congress can’t require Americans to buy medical insurance.

The debate on so-called severability took on added significance after questions from justices yesterday indicated a majority might strike down the insurance requirement. Today’s session will conclude three days of hearings, six hours in all, the longest in 44 years.

Revamping an Industry

The health law would extend coverage to 32 million people who lack insurance by 2016, and revamp an industry that accounts for 18 percent of the U.S. economy, in part through the coverage mandate.

Industry Position

America’s Health Insurance Plans, a trade group in Washington, and the Chicago-based Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, which didn’t take a position on the insurance mandate’s constitutionality, argued that the guaranteed-issue and community-rating rules aren’t practical by themselves.

‘Problematic Portions’

“Generally speaking, when confronting a constitutional flaw in a statute, we try to limit the solution to the problem, severing any problematic portions while leaving the remainder intact,” Chief Justice Roberts wrote in his majority opinion for the 5-4 court. His statement in part quoted an opinion written by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor in a 2006 abortion case.

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