Supreme Court to Hear Health Reform Case in March

The US Supreme Court has announced that it will hear oral arguments concerning the controversial health care reform law next March, when attorneys will have five-and-a-half hours spread out over three days to make their arguments on specific questions related to the law.

The US Supreme Court has announced that it will hear oral arguments concerning the controversial health care reform law next March, when attorneys will have five-and-a-half hours spread out over three days to make their arguments on specific questions related to the law.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), which was signed into law by President Obama in March 2010, aims to significantly increase the number of Americans with health insurance by providing a range of subsidies to those who might not be able to afford it otherwise. However, many argue that aspects of the law, such as the “individual mandate” that requires almost everyone to purchase health insurance, are unconstitutional.

Of four appellate courts that have considered the constitutionality of the individual mandate, three have upheld it, though one of these determined that it did not have jurisdiction over the mandate until penalties for failing to purchase health insurance go into effect in 2014.

Florida is currently leading the largest of the lawsuits challenging the law, with the attorneys general of 26 states arguing that the federal government does not have the power to force individuals to purchase a product that they do not want to buy. The Obama administration, on the other hand, argues that practically every American will at some point require medical care and that uninsured patients currently cost the health care system billions of dollars in unpaid fees that are ultimately passed on to those with insurance.

Four legal questions will be at issue in the arguments before the Supreme Court:

  • On March 26, one hour will be devoted to the question of whether the court has jurisdiction over the individual mandate before it goes into effect in 2014.
  • On March 27, two hours will be devoted to the question of whether Congress has the power under the commerce clause of the Constitution to require individuals to carry a minimum level of health insurance.
  • On March 28, one and a half hours will be allotted to the question of whether the rest of the health care reform law should remain in effect if the court were to strike down the individual mandate, and one hour will be allotted to the question of whether Congress exceeded its power in requiring states to pay for part of an expansion of Medicaid in order to qualify for Medicaid funding.

The Supreme Court is expected to announce its ruling in the case by next June, just five months before the November presidential election.