Justice Dept. says Supreme Court couldn't strike insurance mandate alone

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The federal government has come around gradually to that legal position, but from a policy perspective, those provisions have always been seen as inextricable from the mandate. The purpose of requiring people to buy insurance is not only to cut down on uncompensated care, but also to get young, healthy people into the system, offsetting the cost of forcing insurers to cover sick people.

The Justice Department addressed severability in its reply to the appeal filed by 26 states and the National Federation of Independent Business. Both sides have asked the high court to take that case as soon as possible. But the government said the justices only should review some of the issues the states raised.

It urged the justices not to reopen questions about whether the healthcare law’s Medicaid expansion is unconstitutional. The states have raised that charge, but no court has ruled in their favor. The Justice Department also said the Supreme Court should not hear arguments that the law’s employer mandate is unconstitutional. That argument has also failed in every lower court.