During the last day of Supreme Court hearings about the Affordable Care Act, the justices covered whether or not the entire law could stand if the individual mandate was struck down and the law’s expansion of Medicaid. But Justice Antonin Scalia seemed surprised that someone would have expected the justices to read the text of the health care reform law before the hearings:
JUSTICE SCALIA: Mr. Kneedler, what happened to the Eighth Amendment? You really want us to go through these 2,700 pages? (Laughter.) And do you really expect the Court to do that? Or do you expect us to — to give this function to our law clerks? Is this not totally unrealistic? That we are going to go through this enormous bill item by item and decide each one?
Maybe Scalia should have read the bill before he brought up the Cornhusker kickback during the hearing. As Dave Weigel notes, the plan Scalia brought up — a special deal added that would have funded Nebraska’s Medicaid expansion in perpetuity — was not in the final version of the Affordable Care Act that Congress passed.
To be clear, the Affordable Care Act is a very long bill, and it includes far more than just a provision requiring people to buy insurance. It has expanded insurance coverage for millions of people by allowing young adults to stay on their parents’ insurance plans until 26, and it prevents insurance companies from denying someone coverage because of a pre-existing condition. Scalia is brushing off a bill that could dramatically expand affordable health insurance to the 50 million Americans who are currently uninsured — that is, so long as the Supreme Court does not strike down the entire law.