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Supreme Court to hear health care reform cases
November 14th, 2011
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear challenges to President Barack Obama's health care reform law enacted last year.
In a brief order released Monday, the Supreme Court said it would hear arguments for three cases relating to the constitutionality and/or legality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). The hearings are slated to be held in March, and decisions are expected by late June.
At the crux of the debate is the consitutionality of the so-called "individual mandate" provision of the health reform law that requires individuals to have health insurance by 2014. In turn, the high court will examine the "severability" of the individual mandate from the Affordable Care Act (ACA) — that is, if the mandate is deemed unconstitutional, whether the entire law should be struck down.
Also to be considered by the court are whether the Anti-Injunction Act prohibits challenges to the insurance mandate by states, as well as the constitutionality of the ACA's call for expanded Medicaid eligibility, which some argue would place too much of a burden on states.
The cases receiving certiorari include National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius; Florida, et al., v. Department of Health & Human Services; Department of Health & Human Services v. Florida, et al.
Supreme Court weblog SCOTUSblog noted in a posting Monday that the court carefully selected the issues to address from appeals by 26 states, a business trade group and the federal government, while choosing not to hear arguments on other matters surrounding the law. The blog, too, pointed out that the amount of time the court is providing to hear arguments reflects the gravity of the issues at hand.
"The allotment of five-and-a-half hours for oral argument appeared to be a modern record," wrote SCOTblog reporter Lyle Denniston, who later posted an in-depth analysis of the legal questions surrounding the health reform law. "The length of time specified for the health care review was an indication both of the complexity of the issues involved and the importance they hold for the constitutional division of power between national and state governments."
On Monday, the White House applauded the Supreme Court's decision to hear out the issues surrounding the health reform law. The administration noted that it had called on the high court in late September to resolve lingering constitutional and legal questions so it can proceed with the law's implementation.
"Earlier this year, the Obama administration asked the Supreme Court to consider legal challenges to the health reform law, and we are pleased the Court has agreed to hear this case," White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer said in a statement Monday. "Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, 1 million more young Americans have health insurance, women are getting mammograms and preventive services without paying an extra penny out of their own pocket, and insurance companies have to spend more of your premiums on health care instead of advertising and bonuses. We know the Affordable Care Act is constitutional and are confident the Supreme Court will agree."