The United States Supreme Court has accepted petitions to hear a constitutional challenge to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). The court agreed to take the lawsuit brought by 26 states and the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB). The lawsuit claims that Congress exceeded its power by requiring most Americans to buy health insurance starting in 2014. The justices decided to expand beyond just examining the constitutionality of the individual mandate and instead decided to look at several issues including the Medicaid expansion in the law, the role of the Anti-Injunction Act, and what provisions must be struck from the law if the mandate is ruled unconstitutional.
The oral arguments, for which the justices have allocated four and a half hours, are expected to take place in March. A ruling from the Court is expected prior to the June 30, 2012 end of its term.
The decision to hear the challenge to the law comes as no surprise as both the Obama Administration and opponents of the law advocated for the court to rule on the law as quickly as possible. In addition, conflicting rulings by Federal Circuit Courts increased the likelihood of the Supreme Court hearing the lawsuit.
In August, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals found in a 2-1 ruling in favor of the 26 states and the NFIB that the controversial individual mandate in PPACA was unconstitutional. The mandate requires that nearly all Americans maintain health care insurance or pay an income-based fine for lacking coverage. The majority opinion noted: “The federal government’s assertion of power, under the Commerce Clause, to issue an economic mandate for Americans to purchase insurance from a private company for the entire duration of their lives is unprecedented, lacks cognizable limits and imperils our federalist structure.” In contrast, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled earlier this year that the individual mandate was constitutional.