WASHINGTON (AP) - Some are already anticipating the Supreme Court’s ruling on President Barack Obama’s health care law as the “decision of the century.” But the justices are unlikely to have the last word on America’s tangled efforts to address health care woes. The problems of high medical costs, widespread waste, and tens of millions of people without insurance will require Congress and the president to keep looking for answers, whether or not the Affordable Care Act passes the test of constitutionality.
With a decision by the court expected this month, here is a look at potential outcomes:
Q: What if the Supreme Court upholds the law and finds Congress was within its authority to require most people to have health insurance or pay a penalty?
A: That would settle the legal argument, but not the political battle.
The clear winners if the law is upheld and allowed to take full effect would be uninsured people in the United States, estimated at more than 50 million.
Starting in 2014, most could get coverage through a mix of private insurance and Medicaid, a safety-net program. Republican-led states that have resisted creating health insurance markets under the law would face a scramble to comply, but the U.S. would get closer to other economically advanced countries that guarantee medical care for their citizens.
Republicans would keep trying to block the law. They will try to elect presidential candidate Mitt Romney, backed by a GOP House and Senate, and repeal the law, although their chances of repeal would seem to be diminished by the court’s endorsement.
Obama would feel the glow of vindication for his hard-fought health overhaul, but it might not last long even if he’s re-elected.
The nation still faces huge problems with health care costs, requiring major changes to Medicare that neither party has explained squarely to voters. Some backers of Obama’s law acknowledge it was only a first installment: Get most people covered, then deal with the harder problem of costs.
Q: On the other hand, what if the court strikes down the entire law?
A: Many people would applaud, polls suggest.
Taking down the law would kill a costly new federal entitlement before it has a chance to take root and develop a clamoring constituency, but that still would leave the problems of high costs, waste, and millions uninsured.
Some Republicans in Congress already are talking about passing anew the more popular pieces of the health law.