Supreme Court Refuses To Hear Appeal Over Health Reform Law
On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court dismissed an independent appeal by a California-based conservative legal group to review the constitutionality of the federal health reform law -- particularly the individual mandate that requires most U.S. residents to obtain health insurance by 2014 -- because it has not been fully litigated in lower courts, the Wall Street Journal reports (Kendall, Wall Street Journal, 11/8).
At least two other major lawsuits that challenge the constitutionality of the overhaul currently are under review in lower courts and could advance to the high court.
Details of Rejected Case
The case rejected on Monday was filed by the Pacific Legal Institute and was joined by former California Assembly member Steve Baldwin (R). Although the case -- Baldwin vs. Sebelius -- is pending in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, a federal judge in San Diego previously ruled that the plaintiffs failed to adequately demonstrate harm from the law at that point (CQ HealthBeat, 11/8).
The Supreme Court's decision to reject the appeal was expected because the high court does not accept cases unless they have been fully litigated in the lower courts, the AP/Washington Times reports (AP/Washington Times, 11/8).
Kagan, Thomas Participate in Decision
The court's one-sentence rejection of the case noted that all nine justices were involved in the decision, the Washington Post reports (Barnes, Washington Post, 11/8). Some observers had said that Justices Elena Kagan and Clarence Thomas might recuse themselves because of potential conflicts of interest.
Kagan served as solicitor general in the Obama administration when the law was enacted in March. Some Republican lawmakers previously questioned whether Kagan should be able to participate in any deliberations on the overhaul (Wall Street Journal, 11/8).
During her Senate confirmation hearings, Kagan declined to answer questions about her future involvement in any health reform-related litigation, CQ HealthBeat reports (CQ HealthBeat, 11/8).
However, she noted in written replies to senators' questions that she had not worked on health care-related cases before President Obama nominated her in May (Wall Street Journal, 11/8). Kagan's involvement in the decision signaled her intention to weigh in on future cases challenging the health reform law, according to National Journal (DoBias, National Journal, 11/8).
Meanwhile, some critics have suggested that Thomas should not participate in any health reform-related cases because his wife, Virginia Thomas, has been a vocal opponent of the reform law (AP/Washington Times, 11/8).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.