March 16 (Bloomberg Law) — The U.S. Supreme Court will soon hear one of its most important cases in years — the challenge to the Obama Administration’s health care reform law. The six-hour arguments — the longest session in decades — will stretch over three days, March 26th to March 28th.
The lawyers will address four questions:
First, should the Court even decide the cases now? If the law’s requirement that Americans buy health insurance or pay a penalty is a kind of tax, then it may be that the whole health care case is premature. Tax laws can’t be challenged until they take effect — in the case of the health care law, delaying a challenge until 2014.
Second, can Congress force individuals to buy health insurance — the law’s so-called individual mandate? The challengers say if Congress can force you to buy health insurance, there’s nothing they can’t force you to buy.
Third, if the Court strikes down the individual mandate, is the whole law invalid? Not necessarily, the Obama Administration claims.
Fourth, under its power to spend money, can Congress require the states to expand the number of people eligible for Medicaid?
The nine justices — five appointed by Republican presidents, four by Democrats — will probably decide the cases on March 30th, when they meet in secret to discuss the arguments. Many legal scholars believe the votes of Justices Anthony Kennedy or Antonin Scalia could determine the outcome. The public won’t learn what the decision is until the opinions are written and published. Look for an announcement in late June, just before the Court takes its summer recess.
Follow: @BloombergLaw
Produced by Josh Block
Follow: @joshblock560
Narrated by Charlie Pellett
Still Photo Illustrations: Christopher Yerkes
Video Editing Consultant: John Tully