KHN’s Mary Agnes Carey and legal analyst Stuart Taylor discuss Monday’s ruling on the health law’s contraception mandate, examining what the decision could mean for future challenges to the law. MARY AGNES CAREY: Welcome. I’m Mary Agnes Carey. By a vote of 5 to 4, the Supreme Court has ruled that family-owned, closely held corporations do not have to comply with the health law’s contraception coverage requirements if they violate the owner’s religious views. Legal analyst Stuart Taylor Jr. joins us now to discuss the decision. Thanks for being with us. STUART TAYLOR: Nice to be with you. MARY AGNES […]
The Affordable Care Act, which the Supreme Court partially upheld in 2012 when it issued one of the most important decisions in decades, has spawned more litigation — topped by two consolidated cases that could become the justices’ biggest ruling on religious liberty in years. The oral arguments regarding the law’s contraception coverage mandate, slated for March 25, will be a rematch between two lawyers who squared off in the first health law challenge — Obama administration Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. and former Bush administration Solicitor General Paul Clement. The key question is whether privately owned businesses can be hit with […]
The Supreme Court famously upheld most of the Affordable Care Act in June. But in a year or two we may see another riveting Supreme Court drama growing out of the health law, this one driven by the passionate objections of many religious employers to the so-called contraceptive mandate. An Obama Administration regulation requiring that many employers — including religious employers — provide insurance without copays or deductibles that covers a wide range of contraceptives, including sterilization, as part of women’s preventive health care. Religious groups decry it as an extreme attack on their freedom. Already, more than 40 lawsuits have […]
The Affordable Care Act, which the Supreme Court partially upheld in 2012 when it issued one of the most important decisions in decades, has spawned more litigation — topped by two consolidated cases that could become the justices’ biggest ruling on religious liberty in years. The oral arguments regarding the law’s contraception coverage mandate, slated for March 25, will be a rematch between two lawyers who squared off in the first health law challenge — Obama administration Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. and former Bush administration Solicitor General Paul Clement. Continue reading the column here.
If you think that the Affordable Care Act has surmounted all of the major legal attacks its opponents could come up with, think again. Critics of the federal health law have only begun to fight, although most of their battles are decidedly uphill. The pending challenges to the law, and related regulations, range from the Goldwater Institute’s claim that it gives the Independent Payment Advisory Board unconstitutionally broad powers over Medicare services and payments, to the more than 35 lawsuits by religious employers attacking a Department of Health and Human Services rule that requires them to provide their employees with […]
JACKIE JUDD: Good day and welcome to Health Reform and the Court. I’m Jackie Judd. The historic decision from the Supreme Court today leaves the health overhaul law largely intact. The individual mandate is declared constitutional. The court also ruled that states cannot be financially penalized if they choose not to expand Medicaid to millions of the uninsured. Those are the headlines, here with the details is our legal analyst Stuart Taylor who was in the courtroom when the decision was announced. What was it like?
STUART TAYLOR: It was the most amazing Supreme Court theater I’ve ever seen for 50-some minutes. Roberts the chief justice went on for 20 minutes. When you’re three minutes in, you think “Oh my gosh, they’re going to strike down the mandate.” When you’re eight minutes in, you think “Oh no! They’re going uphold it.” And they do uphold it. They uphold it under the taxing power.
JACKIE JUDD: And he, of course, is the deciding vote.
STUART TAYLOR: He is the deciding vote on everything, pretty much. Then, when he starts in on the Medicaid expansion, he starts in, “Oh, they’re striking it down. By 7-2.” And indeed they were. But the footnote is, all this means is the law cannot force the states to join this new expansion by threatening them with the loss of all their existing Medicaid funds if they don’t.
JACKIE JUDD: Let’s start first with the mandate. As I said, it was a 5-4 vote with Roberts breaking the tie. How did they reach that conclusion?
STUART TAYLOR: Well, there were two sources of federal power that the government claims sustained the mandate. The first is the power to regulate interstate commerce, and 90 percent of the public discussion has been about that issue: Can in the name of regulating interstate commerce, can you force people to buy an unwanted commercial product?
How big is the constitutional challenge to the Obama health care law, which the Supreme Court will hear on March 26-28?
For starters, it’s big enough for the justices to schedule six hours of arguments — more time than given to any case since 1966. After all, the Affordable Care Act is arguably the most consequential domestic legislation since the creation of Medicare in 1965.
It’s also big enough to attract more briefs than any other case in history. At least 170, including more than 120 “friend-of-the-court” or amicus briefs, have been filed, many of which are joined by 10, 20 or more groups of every imaginable description.
And, finally, it’s big enough to cause the justices to postpone until October half of the 12 cases that they would ordinarily hear in April in order to clear time to get started on the health care opinions that they are expected to issue by the late June, or possibly, early July.
What’s it all about?
The immediate issues, in the order the court will hear them, begin with the question of whether the so-called “individual mandate” — which requires that almost all Americans without coverage buy individual health insurance policies or pay fines — is ripe for adjudication now. Or must the case be deferred until 2015 because of the 1867 Anti-Injunction Act, which bars federal courts from ruling on the constitutionality of tax laws before payments are due?
After that come the arguments about what many consider the central issue: whether the mandate, which is unprecedented, should be voided because it represents an unconstitutional exercise of Congress’ powers to regulate commerce and to levy taxes.
By agreeing today to hear challenges to President Obama’s 2010 health care law, the Supreme Court set the stage for a decision — probably in late June and in the midst of the presidential campaign — that could be among its most important in decades.
The case, which will probably be argued in March on a date still to be announced, is especially momentous because it not only will determine the fate of President Barack Obama’s biggest legislative achievement but also will cast important light on the Supreme Court’s future course under Chief Justice John Roberts on issues of federal government power.
The central issue — but not the only important one — is whether Congress exceeded its constitutional powers to regulate interstate commerce and to levy taxes when it adopted the so-called “individual mandate” at the heart of the health care law.
That provision would require millions of people starting in 2014 to buy commercial health insurance policies or pay financial penalties for failing to do so.
The court also agreed to decide a challenge to the Affordable Care Act’s provision essentially requiring states greatly to expand their Medicaid spending.
The court made clear that if it decides to strike down the individual mandate or Medicaid provision, it will also decide which of the 975-page law’s hundreds of other provisions should go down too, by divining whether Congress would have wanted some or all of them to be effective even without the voided provision or provisions.
Finally, the court agreed to decide whether — as one federal appeals court ruled — the litigation surrounding the individual mandate must be deferred until 2015 because of the 1867 “Anti-Injunction Act,” which bars courts from striking down tax laws before they take effect.
Beneath the thousands of pages of legal arguments in the health care lawsuits to be decided sooner-or-later by the Supreme Court lies an easier-to-grasp, if largely unarticulated, background question.
Can Congress and the president use an unprecedented and potentially limitless expansion of the power to regulate interstate commerce to avoid the political hazards of calling a tax a tax? Or might some justices effectively impose a constitutional truth-in-labeling requirement?
In order to explore these questions, it’s important to first review the current tally of wins and losses. So far, one federal appeals court in June upheld the mandate by 2-1. A second struck it down in August by 2-1. And a third on Sept. 8 threw out two other challenges on jurisdictional grounds. Federal district courts have also issued conflicting rulings.
With more cases in the pipeline, it’s certain that the Supreme Court will step in to decide the mandate’s fate. The final decision will probably come down next June, if the Obama administration files its petition for review promptly this autumn, but certainly by 2013.
Most legal experts have long predicted that the Supreme Court will uphold it. Although the confidence level has dipped as lower-court judges have gone both ways, Walter Dellinger, former acting solicitor general under President Clinton, predicts a 7-2 vote to uphold. Tom Goldstein, another leading Supreme Court advocate, who represents AARP as a friend of the court supporting the law, predicts 7-2 or 6-3, adding that “the opponents of the law have done a tremendous job at articulating their theory, and they’ve gotten more traction than I imagined they would,” but he doesn’t “see a realistic chance of them winning.”
But David Rivkin, one of the lead lawyers challenging the health care law, confidently predicts a 5-4 vote to strike down the individual mandate.
Jackie Judd talks with legal analyst Stuart Taylor about the legal blow today to the new health care reform law. Federal Judge Roger Vinson, in Florida, declared the entire law void.
Listen to audio of the interview.
JACKIE JUDD: Good day, this is Jackie Judd for Kaiser Health News. A legal blow today to the new health care reform law. Federal Judge Roger Vinson, in Florida, declared the entire law void because its core – the mandate that almost all Americans obtain health insurance – violates the Commerce Clause [of the U.S. Constitution]. The suit was brought by some 26 states. Legal analyst Stuart Taylor, a contributing editor for Newsweek and the National Journal, is with us. Thank you, Stuart, for joining us. Walk us through the judge’s reasoning.
STUART TAYLOR: Nice to be with you. The gist of it was that Congress has no power to require individuals to purchase health insurance. Because the only basis for the power that the federal government has claimed is the power of Congress to regulate interstate commerce. And the judge held that that power – although it’s very broad, and the Supreme Court may decide it’s broad enough to justify this law – Judge Roger Vinson said it’s not broad enough to require someone to purchase a commercial product. That’s the gist of it.
JACKIE JUDD: And then he went a step beyond that, saying that the individual mandate is so inextricably linked to the rest of the bill that one couldn’t be separated from the other and therefore the entire bill would be void?