U.S. Supreme Court Grants Review Of Cases Testing PPACA's Validity

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By Mary Anne Pazanowski

The U.S. Supreme Court Nov. 14 granted review of a decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit that struck down a key provision of the federal health reform law (Nat'l Fed'n of Indep. Bus. v. Sebelius, U.S., No. 11-393, review granted 11/14/11; Dep't of Health and Human Services v. Florida, U.S., No. 11-398, review granted 11/14/11; Florida v. Dep't of Health and Human Services, U.S., No. 11-400, review granted 11/14/11).

The court had three petitions for review of the case: one filed by a group representing small businesses, the National Federation of Independent Business; one filed by the 26 state plaintiffs, including Florida; and one filed by the Obama administration.

Administration Asks for Review of 11th Circuit Ruling

The administration asked the court to review the Eleventh Circuit's ruling that Congress exceeded its powers under the Constitution when it enacted the individual mandate.

The mandate, a provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that would require virtually all citizens to purchase health insurance or pay a penalty, is scheduled to take effect in 2014.

The Supreme Court will consider the question, along with the issue of whether the lawsuit challenging the mandate is barred by the tax Anti-Injunction Act (AIA), 26 U.S.C. § 7421(a), in an extended three-hour argument.

Two hours will be allotted to the question of the mandate's constitutionality, with an additional hour for the AIA argument, the court said.

Court to Consider Severability of Individual Mandate

Additionally, the court will consider the issue raised by the NFIB and the states regarding the severability of the individual mandate from the remainder of PPACA.

The Eleventh Circuit held that the individual mandate could be decoupled from the rest of the law. The high court consolidated the cases for a 90-minute oral argument on this point.

Also, the court granted review of a second question raised by the states regarding the validity of PPACA's Medicaid expansion provision.

The Eleventh Circuit rejected the states' argument that the provision, which requires states to expand Medicaid coverage or forfeit their Medicaid funding, was unduly coercive.

The oral argument date has not yet been set.