Previewing Day One Of Health Care Reform Oral Arguments
Beginning on Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA,) also known as “ObamaCare.” In all, six hours over three days have been allotted for the parties to make their cases for and against the law. A marathon hearing schedule like this is not unprecedented, but it is not typical, either.
Each day will focus on a different aspect of the law being challenged. The order of oral arguments, according to the Washington Post, is as follows:
- Monday: The Anti-Injunction Act (AIA)
- Tuesday: The individual mandate
- Wednesday: Severability, Medicaid expansion
The first session will deal with whether the penalty for not obtaining health insurance is a tax. Under the Anti-Injunction Act, the government typically must levy a tax before it can be challenged. If the Court finds that the PPACA penalty is in fact a tax, the earliest anyone could challenge it would be after it is imposed, which would be 2015 — the year after the mandate goes into effect. Such a ruling might frustrate PPACA supporters and opponents alike, as the law would remain in limbo for several more years, or until Congress changes the law.
Both the government and the states now agree that the penalty is not a tax, and although it is not especially likely that the Court will conclude that the AIA would prevent the Court from reviewing the law at this time, it still could happen. Moreover, the AIA issue, despite its questionable merits, does have a certain appeal. If the Court wants to avoid a highly-charged election-year ruling, this issue would provide a handy escape hatch for the Court.