• Supreme Court Will Decide the Constitutionality of Health Care Reform
  • November 16, 2011 | Author: Christopher Schneider
  • Law Firm: Miller Johnson - Grand Rapids Office
  • On Monday, November 14, 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court announced that it will hear a challenge to the constitutionality of Health Care Reform. The Supreme Court will hear an appeal from an Eleventh Circuit decision, which partially upheld a Florida district court's ruling in a suit brought by twenty six states, including Michigan. In a 2-1 decision, the Eleventh Circuit held that Health Care Reform's individual mandate exceeded Congress's authority under the Commerce Clause and the Taxing and Spending Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The timing of the Supreme Court's announcement means that oral argument will likely occur in March 2012, with a decision in late June 2012—just months before the November 2012 presidential election.

    An early indicator of the significance of this case is how much time the Supreme Court reserved for oral argument—five and one half hours (which is an hour and a half longer than any other appeal in recent history). In addition to the constitutionality of Health Care Reform's individual mandate, the Court will hear arguments on three other important issues. First, the Court will consider the threshold question of whether the Tax Anti-Injunction Act, a statute that essentially prohibits challenges to a tax before the tax is paid, makes the challenge to Health Care Reform’s individual mandate premature. Second, it will consider whether the rest of the Health Care Reform legislation must fall if the Court decides the individual mandate is unconstitutional (i.e., whether the individual mandate is severable from the rest of the legislation). Finally, the Court will consider whether Health Care Reform's expansions to Medicaid are constitutional. It is important to note that if the Court decides that challenges to the individual mandate are premature under the Tax Anti-Injunction Act, it could refuse to decide that issue (and the related severability issue) until after the mandate takes effect in 2014.

    The Supreme Court's ultimate resolution of these issues will have a significant and long-lasting impact on employers, health insurers, and individuals alike.