Supreme Court to Rule This Spring on Health Care Law

The Supreme Court announced Monday morning that it would hear arguments this year on the Obama administration’s signature legislative achievement: the health care  law.

Arguments are expected sometime this spring with a decision coming in early summer, months before the next presidential election.

The court will review a key provision of the law, known as the Affordable Care Act, the individual mandate that requires individuals to buy health insurance by 2014 or pay a tax penalty. It will also hear arguments regarding whether the mandate can be severed from the rest of the law, whether the challenge is barred by a federal tax law whether the law’s Medicaid expansion presents an undue burden on the states. Justices have budgeted five-and-a half hours for the arguments – much more than is generally allotted for a single case.

The Obama administration had asked the Supreme Court to take up a challenge to the individual mandate after a lower court struck it down.

Today the White House released a statement saying it was “pleased” the court had agreed to hear the case.

“Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, 1 million more young Americans have health insurance, women are getting mammograms and preventive services without paying an extra penny out of their own pocket, and insurance companies have to spend more of your premiums on health care instead of advertising and bonuses, ” The White House said in a statement.

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

Verrilli argued 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.”

Paul D. Clement, a lawyer for the 26 states challenging the law, urged the Supreme Court in briefs to step in and resolve the “grave constitutional questions surrounding the ACA.”  Clement argued, “Time is of the essence, states need to know whether they must adapt their policies to deal with the brave new world ushered in by the ACA.”

Dan Danner, president of a small-business group called the National Federation of Independent Business that is also challenging the law praised the court’s decision to take up the issue.

“Only 18 months after its passage, the new health care law has been brought to the steps of the Supreme Court by America’s small-business owners. For the small-business community, this comes not a day too soon,” said Dan Danner in a statement.

Arguments will  be heard in the following cases: Department of Health and Human Services v. Florida, National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius, Secretary of HHS, and Florida v. Department of HHs.