As expected, the U.S. Supreme Court has decided to hear arguments in cases affecting several elements of the health care reform law, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). Arguments are scheduled for March and the Court has allotted an unusually long 5.5 hours to hear these cases.

In an interesting sidenote, just as the Court was putting health care reform on its schedule, a poll found majority support for the health insurance mandate (one of the key issues going before the Supreme Court) for the first time. A telephone poll of 1,036 adults conducted for CNN by ORC International Poll from November 11-13 found that 52 percent/47 percent split in favor of mandatory health insurance. This represents a major shift from the 44 percent in favor/54 percent not in favor split in June. The poll showed the greatest gains in approval among older people and those with lower incomes. Independent voters also had a turnaround with 52 percent now in favor of the mandate. In June, a majority of this group opposed the mandate.

Now, back to the Court's plans. SCOTUSBlog once again provides a strong and understandable analysis of the issues being considered. However, here is a rundown of the essentials.

  • The Court will consider whether Congress exceeded its constitutional authority by mandating individuals to purchase a certain amount of health insurance or pay a penalty for failing to do so.
  • The Court will also determine if the law's expansion of Medicaid spending at the state level by placing certain conditions on federal money flowing to the states exceeds Congress's authority under the Spending Clause.
  • If the mandate for individuals to purchase insurance is struck down, the Court will determine whether that any other parts of the law or even the entire law must also be struck down.
  • Finally, the Court will also consider whether the mandate can be contested at all until it is actually enacted. Here is what SCOTUSBlog has to say: The federal Anti-Injunction “Act declares that ‘no suit for the purpose of restraining the assessment or collection of any tax shall be maintained in any court by any person,' and was intended to keep the government's revenues flowing even while a taxpayer objects to paying a certain levy. The Act thus has the effect of barring any lawsuit against a federal tax before it actually is enforced; the taxpayer must pay the tax first, then pursue a challenge.” In this case, if the Court rules that the Anti-Injunction Act applies to the mandate, any contest to the mandate would have to wait until it goes into effect in 2014.

The dates for the arguments will be scheduled next month and are expected to take place sometime in March with a decision in June.