Supreme Court to Consider Health Care Legal Challenges

The U.S. Supreme Court could announce as early as today whether it will take up a challenge to the new federal health care law.

The justices will meet behind closed doors this morning for their regular conference. Although they could release the results of the conference today, it is more likely they will do so Monday.

Appellate courts in the District of Columbia, Virginia and Cincinnati have rejected challenges to the law, while the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals based in Atlanta stuck down its key provision, the individual mandate.

The justices have wide latitude to decide which case or issue  to take on, but most people believe the court will give extra consideration for a petition from the Obama administration in the case it lost in the 11th Circuit. The case concerns a challenge brought by 26 states, the National Federation  of Independent Business and two individuals.

In Court briefs, the Obama administration argues that the Affordable Care Act addresses “a profound and enduring crisis in the market for health care that accounts for more than 17 percent of the nation’s gross national product. ”

The administration argues that Congress was well within its authority to pass the individual mandate, the central provision of the law that requires individuals to buy health insurance by 2014 or pay a penalty.

In court papers filed with the justices, Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr writes that the lower court decision striking down the mandate is “fundamentally flawed” and “denies Congress the broad deference it is due in enacting laws to address the nation’s most pressing economic problems.”

“Review by the court,” Verrilli argues, “is plainly warranted.”

Paul D. Clement, a lawyer for the 26 states challenging the law, urges the Supreme Court to step in and resolve the “grave constitutional questions surrounding the ACA.”

“Time is of the essence,” he argues. “States need to know whether they must adapt their policies to deal with the brave new world ushered in by the ACA.”