Preview of Obamacare Arguments Before Supreme Court

ABA Journal:  Without question, the most important issues before the U.S. Supreme Court this year concern the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The Supreme Court is devoting an entire week of oral arguments, six hours over three days, to United States Department of Health and Human Services v. State of Florida and National Federation of Independent Business v. Kathleen Sebelius.

The potential consequences socially, legally and politically are enormous. The outcome could very well shape how health care is provided in this country for decades to come. If the court invalidates this law–and one of the issues is whether the entire act should be struck down–it will be the first time since the New Deal that a major federal regulatory statute has been declared unconstitutional. And there is little doubt that whatever the court decides could have an impact on the outcome of the November presidential election.

The court has granted review on four questions that have been briefed and that will be argued separately. First, the court will face the question of whether the minimum coverage requirement–often called the individual mandate–should be regarded as a tax and, if so, whether the federal Anti-Injunction Act precludes the federal courts from considering its constitutionality at this time. The individual mandate requires that individuals either purchase health insurance or pay a penalty to be collected by the Internal Revenue Service.

Continue viewing a preview of Obamacare arguments before the supreme court.

Supremes Agree To Hear Challenge To Obamacare

ABA Journal:  The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear challenges to the Obama administration health-care law.

The court granted cert today in three cases and allowed extra oral argument time when the case is heard in March, SCOTUSblog reports. As a result of the schedule, the case will be decided only months before the presidential elections, USA Today reports. The court gave the parties a total of 5 1/2 hours to argue the cases, apparently setting a modern record, SCOTUSblog says.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the law has arrived at the court “riding a surprising winning streak and carrying a constitutional stamp of approval from prominent conservative judges.”

Only three out of 12 federal appeals judges who considered the law voted to overturn it. The rulings provide arguments for upholding the law that could appeal even to some conservatives on the court, the newspaper says.

Supreme Court Could Impact 2012 Elections

USA Today:  The Supreme Court opens a potentially epic term Monday that could roil debate in the 2012 presidential election campaign.

The justices have taken a raft of cases that would affect people in their daily lives, including on when police can track their cars with GPS devices and what racy material gets on television when children might be watching.

In coming weeks, the justices will announce whether they will take on two major disputes over federal power, the most closely watched involving the new requirement that most people buy health insurance by 2014. The other concerns Arizona’s law allowing police to check the immigration status of people they have stopped.

Obamacare To Be Decided During 2012 Campaign Season

Washington Post:  The constitutionality of the 2010 health-care law could be determined by the Supreme Court this term, with a decision coming next summer in the thick of the 2012 presidential campaign.

The Justice Department said Monday evening that it had decided not to ask the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta to take up the case. A three-member panel of the court last month decided 2 to 1 that Congress overstepped its authority in passing the Affordable Care Act, which requires virtually all Americans to obtain health insurance.

Although the department declined further comment, the logical next step for the Obama administration is to ask the justices to make what would be the final determination on the law’s fate.

Retired Justice Stevens Says Obamacare Supported By Medical Marijuana Decision

ABA Journal:  Retired Justice John Paul Stevens is citing one of his own opinions as offering legal support for President Obama’s health care law.

Stevens referred to the opinion, Gonzales v. Raich, in an interview with Bloomberg News. The 6-3 decision held the federal government had commerce clause authority to ban medical marijuana, even when the drug doesn’t cross state lines.

“To the extent that the commerce clause is an issue in the case, it just seems to me very similar” to the medical marijuana dispute, Stevens told Bloomberg. Justice Antonin Scalia and Anthony M. Kennedy sided with Stevens in the case, though Scalia wrote separately.

Attorney Quotes Book of Revelations In Sucessful Obamacare Suit

ABA Journal:  The Pennsylvania lawyer who successfully challenged the Obama health care law cited the Book of Revelation in his suit against the federal government.

Lawyer Paul Rossi represents Barbara and Gregory Bachman, Lancaster Online reports. The York County couple say they want to finance a new car, but they are reluctant to take out a five-year loan because they will have to pay for health insurance beginning in 2014 as a result of the new law.

U.S. District Judge Christopher Conner of Harrisburg ruled for the Bachmans on Tuesday, holding that Congress had no authority to enact the individual mandate under the commerce clause, report the Legal Intelligencer and the Associated Press. Conner said his ruling was based on constitutional jurisprudence rather than some of the “hyperbolic rhetoric” of plaintiffs lawyers who predicted America would evolve into a socialist state. “These suggestions of cataclysmic results … are both unproductive and unpersuasive,” Conner wrote.

Lancaster Online quotes from Rossi’s complaint. “If Congress has the power to command individuals to engage in commerce (rather than merely regulate commerce) such a power would harken far beyond Orwellian prose but, rather, to some of the darkest passages of the Book of Revelation and the Beast’s control over all commerce,” he wrote.

Predictions On How US Supreme Court May Vote On Obamacare

ABA Journal: The U.S. Supreme Court hasn’t agreed to review the Obama administration’s health care law, but that hasn’t stopped the pundits from making some predictions.

The swing voters may be Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, Reuters reports. At issue is whether Congress had the constitutional authority to include a provision requiring Americans to buy insurance or to pay a penalty.

The court’s four liberal justices are likely to vote to uphold the law, constitutional experts told Reuters. But they disagree on likely votes by some of the others.

Obamacare’s Individual Mandate Struck Down By 11th Circuit

CNN:  A federal appeals court has tossed out key provisions of the sweeping health care reform bill championed by President Obama, setting up a likely election-year showdown at the Supreme Court over the landmark legislation.

A 2-1 panel of the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Atlanta on Friday found that the law’s “individual mandate” section — requiring nearly all Americans to purchase health insurance by 2014 or face financial penalties — was an improper exercise of federal authority.

The individual mandate exceeds Congress’s enumerated commerce power and is unconstitutional,” Chief Judge Joel Dubina wrote. “This economic mandate represents a wholly novel and potentially unbounded assertion of congressional authority: the ability to compel Americans to purchase an expensive health insurance product they have elected not to buy, and to make them re-purchase that insurance product every month for their entire lives.”

New Health Insurance Law Mandates Free Birth Control

The Hill:  The Obama administration on Monday announced that new healthcare plans will be required to cover contraceptive drugs and counseling without co-pays, starting next year.

The Health and Human Services guidelines, however, exempt some religious groups from having to offer the birth control coverage following an outcry from Christian conservatives.

The coverage guidelines largely reflect earlier recommendations from the Institute of Medicine that received overwhelming praise from women’s health advocates last month. 

Justice Kagan Involved in Obamacare?

CNS  The House Judiciary Committee is launching an inquiry to probe the involvement that Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan had in “health care legislation or litigation” when she was serving as President Barack Obama’s solicitor general and was responsible for defending the administration’s position in federal court cases.

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