KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Supreme Court Will Hear Challenge To Health Law

At 10 a.m. today, the Supreme Court issued its orders for the upcoming 2012 term, which includes the details of how the oral arguments related to the health law will shape up.

CNN: "The U.S. Supreme Court will hear a challenge to President Barack Obama's sweeping health care reform law, the court announced Monday" (11/14).

Bloomberg: "The justices today said they will consider whether Congress exceeded its authority by requiring all Americans to either acquire insurance by 2014 or pay a penalty. The court will wield unprecedented influence over the presidential election campaign, with a decision in the case likely in late June, months before the election" (Stohr, 11/14).

The Washington Post: "The Supreme Court said Monday it will hear a challenge to the health-care overhaul act passed in 2010, with a decision on President Obama’s most controversial domestic achievement likely to come in the summer of his reelection campaign.  Opponents have called the massive new law, with its central mandate that almost all Americans have health insurance by 2014 or pay a penalty, an unprecedented expansion of the national government. The administration says it is confident the act will be upheld as a valid exercise of federal power, just as Social Security and the Civil Rights Act were found to be constitutional" (Barnes, 11/14). The Post also has a chart detailing the issues that are in play. 

The New York Times: "The court’s decision to step in had been expected, but Monday’s order answered many questions about just how the case would proceed. Indeed, it offered a roadmap toward a ruling that will help define the legacy of the Supreme Court under Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr." (Liptak, 11/14). 

The Associated Press: "The justices announced they will hear more than five hours of arguments from lawyers on the constitutionality of a provision at the heart of the law, the requirement that individuals buy health insurance starting in 2014 or pay a penalty, and other related questions about the act. The White House said 'we are pleased that the court has agreed to hear this case'" (Holland, 11/14). 

The Wall Street Journal: "The case raises several issues, but chief among them is this: Did Congress exceed its constitutional powers when it required most individuals to carry health insurance or pay a penalty? The court is expected to hear oral arguments in March, with a decision expected by the end of June. That timeline means the court will rule on President Barack Obama's signature legislative achievement during the thick of the 2012 presidential campaign" (Kendall, 11/14).

Los Angeles Times: "The justices said they would rule on the constitutional challenge to the entire law brought by top Republican officials from 26 states who contend the Democratic-controlled Congress overstepped its authority in passing the measure. ... In agreeing to hear the cases, the court said it will decide four questions that have arisen: Is it constitutional for Congress to require all persons to have health insurance by 2014? If this provision is struck down, can it be 'severed' from the law or must the entire statute fall? Is it unfair to the states to force them to pay the extra cost of expanding the Medicaid program? Finally, should a decision be put off until 2015 when the first taxpayers pay a penalty?" (Savage, 11/14).

The Hill: "The justices also will determine whether a separate federal law bars them from reaching a decision on the mandate before it takes effect. People can’t challenge a tax before they have to pay it, and the Obama administration has defended the mandate by invoking Congress's taxing power. But it has also said the court should bypass procedural issues and rule directly on the mandate. Two federal courts of appeals have said the mandate is constitutional under Congress’s authority to regulate interstate commerce. One has ruled the law unconstitutional, and one said it could not reach a decision on the mandate because of the aforementioned tax law" (Baker, 11/14).

Politico: "Although the court set the stage for an epic, five-and-a-half-hour oral argument in the midst of the 2012 presidential race, it also signaled that it could punt a decision on the individual mandate until 2014. In accepting the challenges to the law, the court said it would devote an hour of the arguments to the effect of the Anti-Injunction Act — a law that, in the view of some courts, could prohibit a ruling on the individual mandate until the mandate goes into effect in 2014" (Haberkorn, 11/14).

Kaiser Health News provides an in-depth of today's Supreme Court announcement by Stuart Taylor. KHN also maintains a scoreboard tracking the health law court challenges.

Earlier today, news outlets reported on some of the key issues and moving parts that will be in play if and when the high court hears pending health law appeals.  

Los Angeles Times: A Buoyed Health Care Law Reaches Supreme Court
After a year and a half of legal skirmishing, President Obama's embattled health care law has arrived at the Supreme Court riding a surprising winning streak and carrying a constitutional stamp of approval from prominent conservative judges. … The Supreme Court is expected to announce as soon as Monday that it will hear the Florida case, the largest and broadest challenge to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Savage and Levey, 11/13).

The New York Times: Supreme Court Memo: Health Law Puts Focus On Limits Of Federal Power
If the federal government can require people to purchase health insurance, what else can it force them to do? More to the point, what can't the government compel citizens to do? Those questions have been the toughest ones for the Obama administration's lawyers to answer in court appearances around the country over the past six months. And they are likely to emerge again if, as expected, the Supreme Court, as early as Monday, agrees to be the final arbiter of the challenge to President Obama's signature health care initiative (Liptak, 11/13).

The Washington Post: The High Court: What Does Supreme Court Decision On Social Security Mean For Health Care Act?
Today, there are unmistakable comparisons to the court's action on the Social Security Act of 1935 as the current justices consider whether to accept a constitutional challenge of the 2010 Affordable Care Act. A decision could come as early as Monday morning (Barnes, 11/13).

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.