The Supreme Court has granted petitions to review the constitutionality of the most controversial provision of the 2010 health reform legislation, the “individual mandate”. The individual mandate is the requirement that most individuals maintain health insurance that, at a minimum, covers specified benefits.
The Court chose to review only the rulings of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. The Eleventh Circuit had ruled that the individual mandate was unconstitutional because it exceeded the authority granted to Congress in Article I of the Constitution. However, the other provisions of the law, such as the ban on rescission of policies, could be enforced whether or not the individual mandate was valid. The appeals court also rejected the argument that the courts had no jurisdiction to hear the case because of the Anti-Injunction Act, a provision of the tax code that deprives the courts of authority to enter injunctions against the collection of any tax. The Eleventh circuit ruled that the Anti-Injunction Act did not apply because the penalty for failure to comply with the individual mandate was not a tax.
- Whether the “minimum coverage provision,” a/k/a the individual mandate, is beyond the power of Congress under Article I of the United States Constitution?
- Whether the minimum coverage provision is severable from the rest of the legislation? and
- Whether the lawsuit is barred by the Anti-Injunction Act.
The Court has allotted two hours for argument on the validity of the minimum coverage requirement, one hour for Anti-Injunction Act, and 90 minutes for the issue of severability.
The parties’ briefs up to this point have been focused on the need for the Supreme Court to hear the case. The next step in the process will be to submit written briefs on the merits. No date has been set for oral argument.
The Supreme Court’s order uses the term “minimum coverage provision” rather than “individual mandate”, the term used in prior rulings. It will be interesting to see how analysts try to “read the tea leaves” to guess at the Court’s likely decision.