Updated from 12:14 p.m. ET with closing bell resultsNEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Should any of the U.S. Supreme Court justices suffer a heart attack during Friday's conference to discuss opinions on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Justice Elena Kagan would leave her seat, walk to the chamber door, open it, and notify the U.S. Marshal securing the room to get a doctor. That's how secretive Friday's opinion conferral is among the justices and just one slice of the procedures carried out as the highest court in the land determines the fate of the health care law otherwise known as Obamacare.
|Obamacare's fate could be secretly decided Friday.|
"The senior justice in the majority will then decide who writes the majority opinion, and, traditionally, the senior justice among the dissenters will decide who writes a primary dissenting opinion," Magarian said. "Although anybody can write a dissent, and anybody in the majority can write a separate concurrence explaining why they ... partially agree and partially disagree." Here's the catch. You won't know about it until June. Once Friday's conference ends, the justices won't reconvene on Obamacare until they announce a final decision in June. The majority author will set to the task to write the majority opinion, which will then circulate among the majority justices. They will then suggest changes or modifications to the original written opinion. There is a possibility that one or many of the justices changes his or her opinion during this period, but it doesn't commonly occur. What is more likely in the Obamacare case is that a justice may remain with the majority or dissenting vote he or she cast in Friday's conferences, but offer a different opinion. For example, if Kennedy joins a majority vote to uphold Obamacare because of the Commerce Clause, Kennedy could say he decided to uphold the law for a different reason. This would be called a "disconcurrence" in the judgment. Regardless, Kennedy would, in that hypothetical scenario, stand in the majority to uphold Obamacare. (Kennedy's judgment is unknown at this point.) Before discussions in the Supreme Court began Monday, Magarian said that this was likely one of the rare occasions when the justices had not formed a conclusive opinion before the oral arguments. He also said it will certainly be a case that offers a lot of differing opinions among the justices. "I'd be shocked if there weren't at least four or five opinions," Magarian said. There could be more; this is big, and everybody gets that." Once the majority opinion garners at least five signatures, then it is formally finished. The dissenting justices will then respond to the majority opinion and embark on the same writing process: The dissenting author writes the opinion and the dissenting justices offer tweaks to the opinion.
That's it. Obamacare's fate will be secretly known by a few people for two months as the justices take time to write an explanation. Though
health insurers surged in Thursday trading on an inferred tone from the justices that they'd consider constitutionality of the law without severability, stocks must wait with the rest of us for a conclusive judgment. Health insurance stocks closed higher Friday along with the broader U.S. indices. UnitedHealth Group ( UNH) was at $58.98, up 87 cents or 1.5%; Aetna ( AET) climbed to $50.17, up 61 cents, or 1.2%; Cigna ( CI) jumped to $49.26, up 29 cents, or 0.59%; Coventry ( CVH) was at $35.57, up 97 cents, or 2.8%; WellPoint ( WLP) rose to $73.81, up $2.19, or about 3.1%; and Humana ( HUM) closed at $92.49, up 95 cents, or about 1%. -- Written by Joe Deaux in New York. >Contact by Email. >Follow Joe Deaux on Twitter. Subscribe on Facebook.