Saturday, March 24, 2012

A Preview of the Three Cases Challenging the PATIENT PROTECTION AND AFFORDABLE CARE ACT in the United States Supreme Court Next Week

Getting the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act before the United States Supreme Court is a behemoth undertaking.  In fact, it took several cases to get the issues to the Court.  Here they are, Department of Health and Human Services v. Florida is docket number 11-398 and pertains to the Anti-Injunction Act (AIA) (but really health care reform); Florida v. Department of Health and Human Services docket number 11-400 (Medicaid); and another part of Department of Health and Human Services v. Florida docket number 11-398 (Minimum Coverage Provision). 
The Anti-Injunction Act, 11-398, gets argued on Monday.  The Minimum Coverage Provision, 11-398, will be heard on Tuesday.  The Medicaid Provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, 11-400, (ACA) will be on the Court's agenda Wednesday

In Department of Health and Human Services v. Florida the question on the Anti-Injunction Act, 26 U.S.C. §7421 (A) is focused on why this challenge to the ACA's mandate to obtain health insurance is not barred by the AIA's prohibition on "suit[s] for the purpose of restraining the assessment or collection of any tax." Which is the position of the State of Florida.  The ACA structured a penalty for failure to comply with the individual coverage mandate and in so doing relied on its Constitutional Authority under the Commerce Clause.  Thus, in part, the Department argues the AIA is inapplicable because the ACA is not imposing a tax.

The Tuesday version of the Department of Health and Human Services v. Florida looks at the Minimum Coverage Provision of the ACA.  The question presented is whether the Minimum Coverage Provision of the ACA  is a valid exercise of Congressional Power under Article I of the Constitution.  The Department will be arguing that the Minimum Coverage Provision is a valid exercise under the Commerce Clause since it relates to interstate commerce and the provision is a necessary component of the ACA's objective to achieve Insurance Reform.

The third aspect of this case asks the question relating to Medicaid. Has the Congress exceeded its enumerated powers and violate basic principles of federalism when it coerces States into accepting onerous conditions that it could not impose directly by threatening to withhold all federal funding under the single largest grant-in-aid program, or does the limitation on Congress's spending power that this Court recognized in South Dakota v. Dole, 483 U.S. 203 (1987), no longer apply?

The rule in South Dakota v. Dole the Congress established a national drinking age of twenty-one years.   South Dakota permitted persons nineteen years and older to drink containing 3.2% alcohol by weight (which is equivalent to 4% by volume).  The law, Title 23 U.S.C. §158 (1982 ed., Supp. III), directed the Secretary of Transportation to withhold a percentage of otherwise allocable federal highway funds from States "in which the purchase or public possession . . . of any alcoholic beverage by a person who is less than twenty-one years of age is lawful."  So South Dakota was losing highway funds and they sued the Secretary of Transportation, Elizabeth Dole.

This relates to Medicaid funds in the case before the Court next week.  In South Dakota v. Dole the Court said "[i]ncident to the spending power, Congress may attach conditions on the receipt of federal funds. However, exercise of the power is subject to certain restrictions, including that it must be in pursuit of "the general welfare.""  Chief Justice Rehnquist delivered the opinion in the case and went on to say "[s]ection 158 also is consistent with the spending power restrictions that, if Congress desires to condition the States' receipt of federal funds, it must do so unambiguously, enabling the States to exercise their choice knowingly, cognizant of the consequences of their participation.

Next week is going to be historic at the Supreme Court next week.  If you want to listen to the oral arguments in the case, they will be posted following argument on March 26th, 27th, and 28 th at  That link is currently at the bottom of the page.  If you want to read the orders, briefs, and other information about this case go to

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