Supreme Court to Hear Case Challenging Health Law
By ADAM LIPTAK
Published: November 14, 2011
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to hear a challenge to the 2010 health care overhaul law, President Obama’s signature legislative achievement. The development set the stage for oral arguments by March and a decision in late June, in the midst of the 2012 presidential campaign.
Win Mcnamee/Getty Images
The court’s decision to step in had been expected, but Monday’s order answered many questions about just how the case would proceed. Indeed, it offered a roadmap toward a ruling that will help define the legacy of the Supreme Court under Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.
The court scheduled five and half hours of argument instead of the usual one, a testament to the importance of the case, which has as its center an epic clash between the federal government and the 26 states that together filed a challenge to the law.
Appeals from three courts had been vying for the justices’ attention, presenting an array of issues beyond the central one of whether Congress has the constitutional power to require people to purchase health insurance or face a penalty through the so-called individual mandate.
The Supreme Court agreed to hear appeals from just one decision, from the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, in Atlanta, the only one so far striking down the mandate. The decision, from a divided three-judge panel, said the mandate overstepped Congressional authority and could not be justified by the constitutional power “to regulate commerce” or “to lay and collect taxes.”
The appeals court went no further, though, severing the mandate from the rest of the law.
On Monday, the justices agreed to decide not only whether the mandate is constitutional but also, if it is not, how much of the balance of the law, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, must fall along with it.
In a statement issued soon after the decision, the Obama administration restated their argument that the mandate is perfectly constitutional.
“We know the Affordable Care Act is constitutional and are confident the Supreme Court will agree,” said Dan Pfeiffer, the White House communications director.
Leading opponents of the law said they were just as confident that they would prevail.
“It is high time for the high court to strike down this unconstitutional, unworkable and unpopular law,” said Randy E. Barnett, a law professor at Georgetown.
But even the White House has said that the mandate is “absolutely intertwined” with two other provisions — one forbidding insurers to turn away applicants, and the other barring them from taking account of pre-existing conditions.
The 11th Circuit ruled for the administration on another point, rejecting a challenge to the law’s expansion of the Medicaid program. The Supreme Court also agreed to hear an appeal from that ruling.
The 26 states that filed the 11th Circuit challenge, represented by Paul D. Clement, a former United States solicitor general, argued that Congress had exceeded its constitutional authority by expanding the eligibility and coverage thresholds that states must adopt to remain eligible to participate in Medicaid.Read More...
Supreme Court Memo: Health Law Puts Focus on Limits of Federal Power (November 14, 2011)
Times Topic: Health Care Reform
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