Policy Resource

Updates on the Supreme Court Oral Arguments on the Affordable Care Act

Mar 18, 2012

If you’ve seen the news, you’ve seen the photos and video of proponents and opponents of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) crowding the Supreme Court building Monday as Justices heard the first hour and a half of oral arguments on this law which has sparked such controversy among some and fervent support among others.

This first day of arguments simply sought to decide whether the case could be heard at all before certain provisions of the ACA have been implemented. (Specifically, the Anti-Injunction Act of 1867 states that a tax cannot be challenged in court until it has been charged. The charges in question under the ACA will not go into effect until 2014, leading some to question whether arguments on the constitutionality of the ACA could be heard until then.) But here’s a spoiler alert: at the end of the day, few were surprised to hear that the justices seemed to think that the law’s fate could be decided in 2012.

On Tuesday, the Justices heard arguments around the key question: is the individual mandate constitutional? In other words, they will decide whether Congress can require people to purchase insurance. And on Wednesday, they will consider two final questions: If the individual mandate is repealed, can the rest of the Act stand without it? Or would all benefits for children and families, such as those described below, be lost as well? This question is referred to as “severability.” And, is the expansion of Medicaid to a broader population constitutional? This issue is frequently referred to as “expansion.” Because Medicaid expansion would gain health care coverage for approximately 7-8 million additional children, efforts on this final day – Wednesday the 28th – will focus on children and families.

What’s at stake for babies? Over the past week, we have been discussing the effects of the ACA on young children here in the Baby Policy Blog. We’ve discussed the impacts of Medicaid on young children up to now and the potential for the ACA to expand coverage starting in 2014. We’ve explored the ways in which the ACA’s provisions for preventive care will improve children’s health and development. And we’ve talked about the provisions both for women’s preventive care and for maternal and newborn care that will affect children’s health beginning prenatally and extending through childhood. (Feel free to scroll down and read last week’s posts for a refresher!) Today, let’s consider a few more important impacts of the ACA thus far. Because of the ACA,

  • 17 million kids with pre-existing conditions can no longer be denied health coverage.
  • Approximately 14 million children have received basic preventive care at no additional cost.
  • An additional 2.5 million young adults up to age 26 can stay on their parents’ health plans.

And what’s more, the ACA provides new federal funds for home visiting services so that at-risk parents and children have improved access to family preservation services. These services seek to decrease child maltreatment and families’ child welfare involvement. By helping parents to understand and address their children’s physical, social-emotional, and cognitive development needs, home visiting cultivates families’ protective factors, nurtures parent-child attachment, and helps to ensure that parents have the resources necessary to caring for their children. Home visiting is a particularly critical tool in serving infants and toddlers, who are difficult or impossible to reach through other programs.

Here at the Baby Blog, we’ll continue to reflect on the ACA’s impacts on America’s infants and toddlers. And Wednesday morning, this Baby Blogger will join the throngs in front of the Supreme Court. Stay tuned for reports from that historic scene. In the meantime, you can share stories about how the ACA has impacted infants and toddlers you know!

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