In a surprise outcome, a provision to expand Medicaid access to the poor appears to be on shaky constitutional grounds, according to the line of questioning by some Supreme Court justices today. The high court just finished hearing the plaintiff's argument that Obamacare's Medicaid expansion is unconstitutional, an argument few legal observers thought would gain much traction. It turns out, more conservative justices appeared troubled by the expansion than most expected.
The Los Angeles Times reports that swing-vote Anthony Kennedy "effectively" accepted the argument by the 26 states challenging Obamacare, that states have "no realistic choices" regarding being forced to expand Medicaid. Additionally, "Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. and Justices Antonin Scalia and Samuel A. Alito, Jr. echoed Kennedy’s concerns, signaling their willingness to invalidate yet another part of the healthcare overhaul Obama signed two years ago," reported the paper.
Most observers think the Medicaid expansion still has a much better chance of being upheld than the individual mandate but they were surprised that the expansion was threatened at all. "It was impossible to determine whether a clear majority of Supreme Court justices were leaning toward a particular ruling," wrote Talking Points Memo's Brian Beutler, " But many legal scholars were shocked that the Court even agreed to hear this challenge. And the consequences of an adverse ruling would be so tectonic for the federalist system that the ambiguity of the conservative justice's opinions is worth noting and taking seriously."