One of the most closely-watched Supreme Court cases of our lifetime begins March 26. The nine justices, in a ruling expected by June of this year, will decide the fate of President Obama’s healthcare reform law.
A quick refresher course on the questions the court will be considering:
- Is the individual mandate unconstitutional? The big question on the courts’ plate: Did Congress violate the Constitution by requiring people to buy health insurance or pay a penalty? The court will hear two hours of arguments on the individual mandate, also known as the minimum coverage provision.
- Can the mandate be separated from the rest of the healthcare reform act? The court will also spend a significant amount of time arguing about what parts of the law should be eliminated should the individual mandate be ruled illegal. The states and businesses that filed the lawsuits against the government claim the entire law should be struck down if the individual mandate is deemed illegal. The feds argue that only some parts of the law should be eliminated if the individual mandate is struck down.
Should the challenge actually be pushed back to 2014? Before either of those questions can be answered, though, the court must first decide if it can even legally make a ruling about the mandate.
A federal law called the Anti-Injunction Act states that “consumers can’t challenge a tax law until they have to pay for it,” according to Politico.
If the court rules that the individual mandate is a tax, then the court could throw out any lawsuits concerning the mandate until it goes into effect in 2014.
Hear it as it happened
The court has agreed to release audio recordings and transcripts of oral arguments from its hearings regarding the challenges to the constitutionality of the healthcare reform law’s individual mandate.
The high court said it would release the recordings on the days the hearings occur due to what it called “extraordinary public interest.”
The court has scheduled three days of hearings from March 26 through March 28.
Requests, however, were rejected from C-SPAN and members of Congress to allow video recordings of the arguments.
So the best those wanting to watch or listen to the proceedings will get are same-day audio recordings, which are scheduled to be released around 2 p.m. on March 26 and 27, and 4 p.m. March 28.
The recordings will be available on the court’s website: www.SupremeCourt.gov.
The schedule for the hearings looks like this:
- March 26 — the court will hear arguments on whether the Anti-Injunction Act bars the court from taking up the issue of the individual mandate’s constitutionality until it kicks in (which is slated to happen in 2014).
- March 27 — the court will hear arguments on whether the mandate is constitutional.
- March 28 — the court will hear arguments on whether the rest of the reform law can stand if the individual mandate is struck down.
Rulings are expected by the end of June.