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Unwinding recent Supreme Court rulings: impact on healthcare and beyond

This week, our In Focus section provides an initial overview of recent US Supreme Court rulings that reshape the landscape of national healthcare policy and operations. These decisions, ranging from redefining federal agency powers to addressing local ordinances that will affect people who are unhoused, are poised to have far-reaching implications across the federal and state governments. 

The Decisions  

A significant ruling came on June 29, 2024, with the Court overturning the precedent established in the 1984 Chevron v. Natural Resources Defense Council ruling. This year’s decision in Loper Bright Enterprises v. Raimondo marks a pivotal shift by eliminating the deference traditionally granted to federal agencies’ interpretations of ambiguous statutes. By empowering courts to clarify vague legislation, the ruling raises fundamental questions about the future of existing regulations and may lead to a surge in litigation challenging federal agency interpretations. The Court did state this ruling would have no impact on past decisions regarding the Chevron doctrine. The decision would apply only to current, pending, and future cases. When read in conjunction with the “major questions doctrine” announced in 2022 in West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Administration, agencies now face more challenges to regulations under a legal structure that does not provide deference to the agency.  

The Court in Corner Post, Inc. v. Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System also significantly reduced the ability of agencies to rely on statutes of limitations to avoid challenges to older regulations.  

In a separate ruling that garnered attention, the Supreme Court upheld local ordinances in Grants Pass, OR, that restrict individuals experiencing homelessness from using blankets, pillows, or cardboard boxes for shelter in public spaces. The majority opinion in City of Grants Pass, Oregon v. Johnson supported the city’s stance that these ordinances, aimed at prohibiting camping on public property, do not constitute cruel and unusual punishment under the Constitution. This decision has sparked considerable debate over the balance between municipal governance and constitutional protections for people who are unhoused. 

Also portending effects for the healthcare industry is the Court’s decision that defendants facing civil monetary penalties from the US Securities and Exchange Commission have a right to a jury trial. The Securities and Exchange Commission v. Jarkesy decision presents new considerations for healthcare and life sciences companies facing civil monetary penalties from the US Department of Health and Human Services. 

What’s Next  

The implications of these rulings are poised to reverberate throughout both federal and state governments. Stakeholders across healthcare and beyond must prepare for a period of adjustment and adaptation. Numerous questions regarding implementation and enforcement will likely emerge. The outcomes could trigger a wave of legal challenges and legislative responses as stakeholders navigate the evolving regulatory landscape. 

Future In Focus sections will dive deeper into the potential impacts these decisions will have on healthcare policies and partnerships with related sectors. These insights will be pivotal in guiding strategic decisions amid the evolving legal framework.