SCOTUS to hear Obamacare case
The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case challenging Obamacare that will determine some. none, or all of its constitutionality.
The historic arguments - 5 1/2 hours instead of the traditional 1 hour - will be heard sometime in March with a decision expected in June.
The Supreme Court agreed to hear appeals from just one decision, from the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, in Atlanta, the only one so far striking down the mandate. The decision, from a divided three-judge panel, said the mandate overstepped Congressional authority and could not be justified by the constitutional power "to regulate commerce" or "to lay and collect taxes."
The appeals court went no further, though, severing the mandate from the rest of the law.
On Monday, the justices agreed to decide not only whether the mandate is constitutional but also, if it is not, how much of the balance of the law, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, must fall along with it.
The justices could deem the mandate unconstitutional but the rest of the law legal. They could strike down parts of the law but leave the mandate. Or they could scrub the whole shebang. Still to be determined is whether Justice Kagan, solicitor general during the law's debate and passage in congress, should recuse herself for being involved in the law's germination. This is critical because without one less sure liberal vote, there's a chance the court could split 4-4, thus upholding the appellate decision and nixing the mandate.
But beware; even in historic cases like this, the court rarely issues sweeping opinions. The chances of SCOTUS declaring Obamacare entirely unconstitutional is not likely. I think the best we can hope for is a decision that says the mandate is unconstitutional but upholds some of the commerce-related provisions regulating insurance companies.