Supreme Court to Take Up Health Care Law Next Week

March 21, 2012

Six hours of oral argument over three days will commence next Monday, March 26, in the U.S. Supreme Court in cases challenging the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). The Court will consider the minimum coverage requirement provision (also called the individual mandate), Anti-Injunction Act issues, Medicaid issues and severability issues (i.e. whether the Court must uphold or reject the entire PPACA or can rule that only parts of it are unconstitutional).

The time allocated for argument (and the order that the arguments will be heard) is as follows:

  • Anti-Injunction Act – 90 minutes
  • Minimum Coverage Requirement – 2 hours
  • Severability  – 90 minutes
  • Medicaid – 1 hour

The administration will argue that Congress had authority under the Commerce and Necessary and Proper clauses of the U.S. Constitution to enact the minimum coverage provision. It will argue that Congress has broad power to enact economic regulation and that the minimum coverage provision is an integral part of a comprehensive scheme of economic regulation.

The administration also will argue that the minimum coverage provision is independently authorized by Congress’s taxing power, that the minimum coverage provision operates as a tax and that the validity of an assessment under the taxing power does not depend on whether it is denominated a tax.

The Anti-Injunction generally requires (with some exceptions) that those wanting to challenge taxes have to pay first and file suit for a refund.  If the penalty for not complying with the mandate qualifies as a tax, then the Court could hold that a decision on the tax portion of the PPACA must wait until someone pays the penalty and files suit for a refund.

The Medicaid portion of the challenge turns on whether Congress exceeded its enumerated powers or violated basic principles of federalism by coercing States into accepting conditions deemed onerous by threatening to withhold federal funding in the absence of state compliance with PPACA rules.

A ruling is expected by the Supreme Court by the end of June.  There is, however, no requirement that the Court rule by that date.

To read the briefs filed in the Supreme Court, please click here.

To see the Oral Argument schedule, please click here.