Before everyone gets excited about engaging in an argument about the constitutionality of health care reform and debating the various cases that are pending on the topic, understand this is not what this posting is about. I am just bringing out the current status of the various cases challenging the reform so you know what is ahead.
Monday, a Virginia District court ruled in a case brought by the Virgina Attorney General, that the provisions of reform that mandate the individual purchase of insurance is unconstitutional. This conflicts with some prior district court rulings that found that it was permissible. Not surprisingly, those decisions also were divided along party lines depending on which president appointed them. There have also been a couple decisions tossing out claims made by entities who were determined to not have standing. There are also other suits filed by other states that remain open that will generate other opinions and they also include a challenge to the laws administration of Medicaid and other mandated benefits.
The key here is that eventually this issue of the "mandate" will find its way to the Supreme Court where there will be a determination as to whether or not an individual can be required to purchase health insurance coverage. The concern is that much of the reform currently being enacted is premised on the idea that people will be required to pay premiums so that will eventually pay for the changes. if people cannot be forced to buy coverage, funding may ultimately become an issue. We are a long way from having a final answer on that.
But what I do know is this: January 1, 2011, is fast upon us and for most employers and plans, that means the first set of administrative and eligibility changes are due. These court fights do not give us the liberty to avoid compliance now. Make sure you have sent required notices, are prepared to deal with discrimination testing and have amended your plans and documents. No matter how this "mandate" issue plays out in the courts, the administrative and eligibility changes we now see are with us for at least the foreseeable future, so make sure you are prepared.