The U.S. Supreme Court has tapped two Washington attorneys to argue crucial issues regarding the health care reform law, finalizing the process for how justices will hear challenges to the Affordable Care Act.
H. Bartow Farr III of Farr & Taranto was chosen to defend an argument in favor of allowing the health care reform law to stand, should the individual mandate requiring Americans to carry insurance or pay a tax penalty is deemed unconstitutional.
This was the position that a lower appeals court, the Atlanta, Ga.-based Eleventh Circuit, reached in an August decision. That ruling in a case brought by 26 states deemed the individual mandate unconstitutional, but said it could be severed without dealing a fatal blow to the entire law.
Robert A. Long of Covington & Burling will argue in support of a Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that said lawsuits challenging the Affordable Care Act are barred under the Anti-Injunction Act, a tax law that prohibits courts from hearing cases on taxes before they are paid.
The Supreme Court announced that they chose these veteran lawyers on Friday. The issues they will take up have put the Obama administration and the health care law's critics on the same page.
Attorneys for the federal government say that the individual mandate cannot be removed from the health care law. To ensure the law works, insurance companies would get new, healthy customers who are cheaper to cover in order to subsidize coverage of sick or high-risk Americans they are barred from turning away.
Lawyers for the 26 states challenging the law also argue in court filings that the Affordable Care Act cannot survive the invalidation of the mandate, which was at the heart of the ACA's carefully crafted compromise.
Both sides also agree that the Anti-Injunction Act does not apply to the cases involving the Affordable Care Act and that the Supreme Court should hear the legal challenges this term, rather than 2014, when the individual mandate is slated to kick in.
The Supreme Court Nov. 14 announced that it will set aside five and a half hours for oral arguments on several issues pertaining to the health care law, including the constitutionality of the mandate, the Anti-Injunction Act and an expansion of Medicaid eligibility.