WASHINGTON, D.C. - (Mealey's) The U.S. Supreme Court on Nov. 14 agreed to review three cases challenging the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) after considering five of six petitions challenging the act at its Nov. 10 conference (National Federation of Independent Business, et al. v. Kathleen Sebelius, No. 11-393; States of Florida, et al. v. Department of Health and Human Services, et al., No. 11-400; United States Department of Health and Human Services, et al. v. State of Florida, et al., No. 11-398; Thomas More Law Center, et al. v. Barack Hussein Obama, et al., No. 11-117; Liberty University, et al. v. Timothy Geithner, et al., No. 11-438, U.S. Sup.).
Three of the five petitions heard at the Nov. 19 conference stemmed from States of Florida, et al. v. Department of Health and Human Services, in which the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida held that the individual mandate contained in the PPACA is an unconstitutional regulation of commerce. The court also held that because the PPACA contains no severance clause, the entire law must fail.
A split 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals panel affirmed that the individual mandate is unconstitutional but reversed the holding that the provision is not severable from the rest of the act. The court also affirmed that the act's expansion of Medicaid is constitutional.
The Supreme Court granted the government's petition, which asks the court to consider whether Congress had the power under Article I of the U.S. Constitution to enact the minimum coverage provision and whether the minimum coverage provision is barred by the Anti-Injunction Act (AIA).
The court consolidated petitions brought by the National Federation of Independent Business and two of its members and the states to address whether the PPACA must be invalidated in its entirety because it is nonseverable from the individual mandate that exceeds Congress' limited and enumerated powers under the Constitution.
The court granted the states' petition to address the question "Does the Affordable Care Act's mandate that virtually every individual obtain health insurance exceed Congress's enumerated powers and, if so, to what extent (if any) can the mandate be severed from the remainder of the Act?"
The government had asked the Supreme Court to grant petitions filed by the government and by the National Federation of Independent Business in Florida but to limit review of the petition filed by the states to the question of severability.
The court also considered, but did not issue a decision in, Thomas More Law Center, et al. v. Barack Hussein Obama, et al. (No. 11-117) and Liberty University, et al. v. Timothy Geithner, et al. (No. 11-438).
In Thomas More, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan dismissed the case, and a divided Sixth Circuit panel affirmed, holding that the mandate is a valid exercise of Congress' power under the commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution. In Liberty University, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia dismissed the case, finding that Congress acted within its constitutionally delegated powers under the commerce clause when it passed the employer and individual mandates contained in the PPACA. A divided Fourth Circuit appeals panel held that the AIA strips the court of jurisdiction to hear Liberty University's challenge to the PPACA and remanded the case with instructions to dismiss the case for lack of jurisdiction. The dissenting judge said he would affirm the lower court's decision that Congress acted within its powers in passing the challenged provisions of the act.
The government had asked the court to hold review of the petitions in Liberty University and Thomas More until a decision was reached in the Florida case.
The court is scheduled to hear the case of Commonwealth of Virginia, et al. v. Kathleen Sebelius (No. 11-420) at its Nov. 22 conference. In Virginia, a Fourth Circuit panel reversed a U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia decision that by enacting the individual mandate provision contained in the PPACA, Congress exceeded the powers granted to it under the Constitution. The provision was severed from the rest of the act. The government has also asked the court to hold the petition pending the disposition of the Florida case.
[Editor's Note: Full coverage will be in the Nov. 16 issue of Mealey's Managed Care Liability Report. For all of your legal news needs, please visit www.lexisnexis.com/mealeys.]
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