The highly anticipated Supreme Court review of landmark health care reform legislation has taken a step closer to reality. The nine Supreme Court Justices announced on Oct. 26 that they will review five of six pending petitions on Nov. 10, one of their closed-door conference days.
In this session, the Justices will decide whether or not to hear any or all of the petitions that challenge the massive Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), spearheaded by the Obama administration. While it is not guaranteed that the petitions will come before the court, legal experts anticipate that the Justices will take on this controversial topic, notably as lower federal appeals courts have previously made divergent rulings on the constitutionality of the new law.
So just what are these petitions? Four of the five to be reviewed on Nov. 10 are challenges to the ACA, with the fifth presented by the federal government to defend the constitutionality of key elements of the act. A sixth petition, which is not yet ready to be presented to the Justices, examines the rights of states, specifically Virginia, to challenge the federal government in court.
The most contentious element that the Court may decide is whether Congress exceeded its authority by mandating that virtually all Americans purchase health insurance by 2014. Also up for possible review is whether new Medicaid requirements place too great a strain on the states. Further, if the Justices rule that the individual mandate is indeed unconstitutional, they must determine whether this invalidates the entire ACA or whether parts of it can remain enacted.
The decision of the Court on whether or not to hear these cases could come very quickly, either the day of the conference or the following Monday, Nov. 14. If the Court does, as anticipated, decide to hear the cases, it is more than likely they will be heard in the current term, with possible oral arguments coming in March 2012, with a decision as early as June 2012.
Lawyers, law makers, health care providers and individual citizens will be waiting with baited breath for the decision of the Supreme Court Justices. There is a great deal at stake for all parties on the potential decision of the Court, from the rights of patients and providers to statewide Medicare and Medicaid budgets, and potentially even the outcome of the 2012 Presidential election. Rest assured, the Full Spectrum Blog will be tracking the court every step of the way to keep our readers up-to-date.