In a 5 to 4 decision, the Supreme Court on June 28 upheld the constitutionality of the cornerstone provision of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, the individual mandate. In the Court’s majority decision, which was written by Chief Justice Roberts and concurred in by Justices Breyer, Ginsburg, Sotomayor and Kagan, the law’s individual mandate was ruled a valid exercise by Congress of its taxing power. Justice Kennedy, who was widely viewed as the likely swing vote, did join with Justices Scalia, Alito and Thomas in a dissenting opinion. A surprise to most was that the controlling swing vote in favor of upholding the law proved to be that of the Chief Justice.
With good reason given the uncertainty about the constitutionality of the health care reform statute that prevailed up until the Court’s decision, many employers with health care plans have delayed focusing much attention or resources on the decisions they have to make to comply with the new law by its 2014 full implementation date. The decision from the Court, upholding the law, means that this “wait and see” approach is difficult to continue to justify. The 18 months remaining between now and January 1, 2014, is a relatively short time frame in which to gear up for full compliance. There are a number of notice, administration and benefit changes health plan sponsors will have to implement.
In our upcoming Employment Law Newsletter, Barley Snyder’s employee benefits attorneys will provide a summary of the significant health care reform compliance requirements that need to be implemented.