Construction industry sources say they are hopeful that the U.S. Supreme Court overturns President Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which they contend is problematic for employers.
The case is being closely watched across the nation, as the justices sit through six hours over three days of oral arguments March 26-28 and consider the constitutionality of the law’s requirement that individuals purchase health insurance by 2014 or pay a penalty. The law is being challenged by 26 states and the National Federation of Independent Business.
Based on the questioning on March 27, the justices appeared divided on whether they would overturn the requirement. While the court’s more liberal wing made statements that seemed to support the mandate, the more conservative justices posed tough questions to the government’s lawyer, Donald B. Verrilli Jr., solicitor general at the U.S. Justice Dept.
Justice Anthony Kennedy said, “I understand that we must presume laws are constitutional, but, even so, when you are changing the relation of the individual to the government in this, what we can stipulate is, I think, a unique way, do you not have a heavy burden of justification to show authorization under the Constitution?”
Construction and engineering observers say that if the court overturns the individual mandate portion of the law as unconstitutional, the question will become whether the law can still stand, or whether the individual mandate is so intertwined with the other provisions that the entire law will be struck down.
Steve Hall, vice president of government affairs for the American Council of Engineering Companies, says that if the individual mandate is deemed unconstitutional, there could be “an opportunity to revisit health care reform in what we would regard as a more positive way.” Most engineering firms already provide health insurance to their employees, but ACEC and others would like to see a health care law that “makes it easier for companies to provide health insurance to help them with the growing cost burden [of providing insurance.]”
Kristen Swearingen, director of legislative affairs for the Associated Builders and Contractors, adds, “The construction industry is facing an unemployment rate of 17%, so being burdened with more regulations and mandates is not what we need right now.”
Supreme Court Hears Oral Arguments in Health Care Case
April 2, 2012