The U.S. Supreme Court has been petitioned for the fifth time to hear a challenge to the health care reform law, as Liberty University appealed a decision that tossed its case.
The Christian university that the late Jerry Falwell founded in Virginia asked the Supreme Court to determine whether Congress exceeded its authority in mandating that nearly every American obtain health insurance or pay a tax penalty.
The petition also requested the Supreme Court to determine if the entire health care law can stand without the mandate and whether courts can even hear a challenge to the Affordable Care Act.
A lower appellate court tossed the university's case in a 2-1 ruling that determined its case against the health care law was barred under a statute that requires a tax be paid before a challenge is filed.
Petitioners are not challenging the assessment or collection of the non-compliance penalties, which might never be assessed against them, Liberty University's lawyers wrote. It is the mandates and, more particularly, Congress' authority to enact such mandates that is at the heart of this case.
Liberty University Also Questions Tax Penalty
Liberty University also questioned the nature of the tax penalty, arguing that it is not to generate revenue, but instead an effort to compel conduct, like buying health insurance. Under the Affordable Care Act, the tax penalty was created through altering the internal revenue code.
So far, there have been three appellate court rulings on the Affordable Care Act, with the Atlanta-based 11th Circuit striking down the individual mandate, the 6th Circuit in Cincinnati deeming the health insurance requirement constitutional and the Richmond, Va.-based 4th Circuit tossing the case entirely.
The Washington, D.C., appellate court has yet to rule on a case challenging the health care law.
Following these rulings, the Supreme Court has received petitions from the Obama administration, 26 state attorneys general, a business group, and a conservative legal organization called the Thomas More Law Center.
Though the high court can pick any one of these petitions to hear, legal experts say the case appealed from the 11th Circuit is the best vehicle for the Supreme Court to decide the fate of the Affordable Care Act.