Supreme Court Starts Hearings in Case Against Health Reform Law

TOPIC ALERT:

On Monday, the Supreme Court begins oral arguments in the case against the federal health reform law, the Los Angeles Times reports (Levey, Los Angeles Times, 3/24).

In six hours of arguments over three days, the court will weigh four issues:

  • Whether the tax anti-injunction act prevents courts from ruling on the matter until the defendants pay the penalty for not obtaining health insurance coverage under the individual mandate;
  • Whether the individual mandate violates the Constitution;
  • Whether the remainder of the law can stand if the individual mandate is struck down; and
  • Whether the Medicaid expansion amounts to unlawful coercion of the states by the federal government (Radnofsky, "Washington Wire," Wall Street Journal, 3/23).

According to the New York Times, the central argument -- the constitutionality of the individual mandate -- will not be addressed until Tuesday. On Monday, the court will hear two-and-a-half hours of arguments on the tax anti-injunction act, an 1867 federal law that states that "no suit for the purpose of restraining the assessment or collection of any tax shall be maintained in any court by any person." Under that law, the high court could decide that the case cannot be heard until the defendants pay the penalty for not obtaining health coverage on their taxes in 2015 (Liptak, New York Times, 3/26).

Based on the arguments put forth in briefs by the plaintiffs and the defendants, there are six possible outcomes in the case, Politico reports. The Supreme Court could:

  • Uphold the entire law;
  • Strike down the entire law;
  • Strike down just the individual mandate;
  • Strike down the individual mandate and any other provision linked to it;
  • Strike down the Medicaid expansion; or
  • Decide that the anti-injunction act prevents a ruling (Nather, Politico, 3/26).

For more analysis of the case, here are three California Healthline news features:

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