The U.S. Supreme Court Monday announced that a week in March has been set aside for arguments in the health care reform law case that will determine if President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act can withstand constitutional muster.
The justices in November scheduled five and a half hours of oral arguments concerning several provisions of Obama's key legislative achievement. The high court will hear from the parties on Monday, March 26 through Wednesday, March 28 -- the only arguments that will be made before the court that week.
Each day will be devoted to arguments for a particular part of the health care law. Attorneys will argue that Monday whether a law prohibiting suits challenging taxes before they are collected covers challenges to the Affordable Care Act, which will impose a tax penalty on Americans who fail to obtain health insurance in 2014.
On that point, the Obama administration and its critics are in agreement that the case should go forward and that the tax law does not cover the Affordable Care Act, so the Supreme Court tapped Covington & Burling attorney Robert A. Long to make the case.
Should the justices decide that the case is prohibited by the tax law, known as the Anti-Injunction Act, the court would be able to avoid deciding the constitutionality of the health care reform law.
On Tuesday, the court will hear two hours of arguments on the individual mandate -- the most controversial provision of the law that is seen as the key to the Affordable Care Act's success.
On the final day, there will be 90 minutes of arguments about whether the Affordable Care Act could stand without requiring most Americans to purchase insurance.
The Obama administration says the law is inextricably linked to the mandate because the health care system will need healthy people who are inexpensive to cover to buy insurance. Healthy people are needed to buy coverage because insurance companies are no longer able to deny insurance policies to for people who have preexisting conditions.
Because both sides agree that the fate of the Affordable Care Act needs the insurance mandate to survive, attorney G. Bartow Farr III of Farr & Taranto was picked by the justices to argue that the health care law can stand on its own, should the mandate be struck down.
Allowing the Affordable Care Act to survive without the mandate was the position the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta reached.
Rounding out the arguments on Wednesday, March 28 is the issue of expanding Medicaid eligibility requirements. States, in time, will be forced to cover new Medicaid enrollees or risk losing federal money.