Affordable Care Act Back in Court

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The Affordable Care Act returns to the courtroom today. The constitutionality of the act is being questioned in a joint trial from 26 states, including Idaho. Several federal courts are seeing similar trials, but a decision made after today’s proceedings in Atlanta, the 11th circuit, may become the litmus test applied to future hearings.

The lawsuit challenges the constitutionality of the "individual mandate," which requires everyone to buy health insurance, and also the expansion of Medicaid. Opponents say expansion of Medicaid would destroy already struggling state budgets. The plaintiffs in the case are governors and attorneys general from more than half the country, including Idaho AG Lawrence Wasden.

The tug-of-war decisions on the constitutionality of the ACA have closely followed party lines. Two judges appointed by President Bill Clinton determined the ACA was legal in 2010, but later that same year, a Virgina judge appointed by President George W. Bush, came to the opposite conclusion.

Making today's arguments in Atlanta all the more interesting is that the three judge panel is made up of two judges appointed by President Clinton and one appointed by President George H.W. Bush.

After the three-judge panel has made a decision, it’s possible that a full review by all judges will be requested. A review of this nature, called “en banc,” would take months, possibly delaying a final ruling until after the 2012 election.