The Health Law Sidebar
November 18, 2011

SCOTUS Grants Cert on PPACA

The United States Supreme Court has announced that it will hear challenges (see page 3) to the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“PPACA”).  Although six separate cases were before the Court, it chose to only decide selected questions from three cases.

The Court also notified the parties that it would devote 5 and 1/2 hours for oral argument , believed to be a record length, for those selected questions.  As expected, the Court will devote much of its attention to the “individual mandate” provision requiring the purchase of health insurance coverage.  The Court will  hear argument regarding the constitutionality of the individual mandate and whether the remainder of PPACA can survive if that provision is declared unconstitutional.  The Court will also hear argument on whether a Federal lawknown as the Anti-Injunction Act bars certain challenges to the law by individuals or states.

Despite the focus on the individual mandate, the Court has also devoted an hour of the 5and 1/2 block to argument surrounding the Constitutionality of the law’s Medicaid provisions, which may be significant to the end result.  PPACA requires states to expand the coverage scope offered by Medicaid, or risk losing their federal funding for this joint federal/state program.  The State of Florida had argued that this threat exceeded the enumerated powers of Congress in the Florida v. U.S. Dep’t of Health and Human Servs. case, an argument that the Eleventh Circuit rejected.

Oral argument is scheduled for March and news reports anticipate that a final decision could be reached by June 2012.