Chief Justice John Roberts said Wednesday what has long been known but seldom spoken. During the third and final day of Supreme Court hearings on whether the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 is unconstitutional, Roberts said states have been compromising their sovereignty for decades through increased reliance on the federal government for money and accompanying directions on the governance of state affairs.
"It seems to me that they have compromised their status as independent sovereigns because they are so dependent on what the federal government has done," the chief justice said during Wednesday's nearly three hours of hearings on the controversial health insurance law.
The final day's arguments had to do with whether the law could stand if the justices find the mandate for uncovered individuals to purchase health insurance is unconstitutional — something the court's conservative majority appears ready to do. Another feature of the law called into question by lawyers opposing the act is the expansion of Medicaid, the federal-state program that provides health care for low-income families. Under the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid is expanded to include a larger number of parents, as well as low-income adults with no dependent children. Half of the 32 million who would get new health insurance coverage under the law would receive it through Medicaid. Starting in 2014, the federal government would pay 100 percent of the cost of newly eligible participants. The federal share would be scaled back to 90 percent by 2020. States would still have the right to opt out of the program, but would stand to lose all of the federal funding, including the money they are already receiving. Currently all 50 states participate in the program.
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Chief Justice John Roberts (photo)