As summarized by this excellent post on SCOTUSBlog, the Court has allocated 5 1/2 hours of argument to the PPACA challenge, 2 hours of which will focus on the constitutionality of the individual insurance mandate, with another hour allocated to the constitutionality of PPACA’s expansion of Medicaid coverage. These issues arose in several PPACA challenges that went up on appeal but the specific case the Supreme Court has selected for review is State of Florida v. U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services. In that case, brought by 26 state governors and attorneys general, plaintiffs argued (and the trial court ruled) that the faulty mandate invalidated the entirety of the PPACA. The 11th Circuit invalidated the individual mandate on the grounds that it violated the commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution, but did not conclude that this invalidated PPACA as a whole.
The Supreme Court will hear 90 minutes of argument on this question of whether the mandate is “severable” from the rest of PPACA, or inextricably entwined throughout the law.
The Supreme Court will also allocate an hour of oral argument to the question of whether the federal Anti-Injunction Act bars states, or individuals, from challenging the insurance mandate. That law bars lawsuits aimed at restraining the assessment or collection of taxes, and in this instance “taxes” is interpreted to include the penalties that PPACA imposes on individuals who ignore the mandate, or employers who refuse to provide coverage. If the Supreme Court finds that the PPACA challenges are subject to the Anti-Injunction Act, then the earliest date such a challenge could proceed would be April 2015, when penalties first would be imposed under PPACA for not obtaining coverage under the mandate.
Also relevant to the Supreme Court’s PPACA hearing is whether all of the Justices will attend the hearings. Calls for Justice Clarence Thomas to abstain from oral argument have been made as a result of his wife’s public involvement in Tea Party organizations. Others have argued that Justice Kagan’s prior role as U.S. Solicitor General disqualifies her, although the New York Times reports that she made efforts to avoid hearing health care lawsuits in that role.
A decision on the March 2012 hearing may be made as soon as next summer. SCOTUSBlog is a good source of information for those curious about predictions on outcome, and in-depth analysis of the points of constitutional and other federal law that are at issue.