High Court Must Choose Issues To Consider in Health Reform Lawsuits
If the U.S. Supreme Court decides to consider the issue of whether the individual mandate in the federal health reform law is constitutional, it must also decide whether to consider challenges to several other aspects of the overhaul, Politico reports.
Four lawsuits against the federal health reform law are pending before the high court, including one that involves 26 states, the National Federation of Independent Business and several individuals. The plaintiffs in the other three cases are the state of Virginia, the Thomas More Law Center and Liberty University.
Parties in each of the four lawsuits have filed petitions for the court to rule on the constitutionality of the individual mandate, but each also have asked for the court to consider other issues.
The Supreme Court must decide on which issues it wants to rule. It might decide it wants to consider only challenges to the individual mandate, or the court could combine issues from several different cases.
The high court could examine the following issues:
- Severability: The high court could decide whether striking down the individual mandate means invalidating the entire law;
- The Anti-Injunction Act: Justices might consider whether courts have the authority to rule on the individual mandate before U.S. residents face penalties for failing to obtain health insurance in 2014 (Haberkorn, Politico, 10/23). The Obama administration has said the mandate is a tax, not a fine. The Anti-Injunction Act prevents courts from halting taxes before they take effect. However, the Department of Justice has asked to court to rule on the case as soon as possible and is arguing that the act does not apply. According to Tim Jost, a law professor at Washington and Lee University, the administration's two arguments are "transparently contradictory" (Baker, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 10/23);
- The Virginia law: The high court could rule on whether states have the right to challenge federal mandates that conflict with state law. Shortly before President Obama signed the reform law, Virginia enacted its own law stipulating that residents cannot be required to purchase health insurance;
- Medicaid expansion: The court could decide whether the reform law's expansion of the Medicaid program is constitutional; and
- Employer mandate: The high court could rule on whether the law's employer coverage requirements are constitutional (Politico, 10/23).
Brad Joondeph, a law professor at Santa Clara University, said the justices could decide which issues to consider as soon as Nov. 10, with a public announcement possible on Nov. 14.
Appeals Court Hears Missouri Reform Lawsuit
In related news, the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday heard oral arguments in a lawsuit challenging the health reform law brought by Missouri Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder (R) and state residents.
The arguments involved the merits of the reform law and the issue of legal standing. Following the arguments, Kinder said he was "cautiously optimistic" regarding the court's ruling (Norman, CQ HealthBeat, 10/21).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.