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Five Things to Know About the Supreme Court Healthcare Appeal

By Robyn Hagan Cain | Last updated on

Here at FindLaw, we understand the pressures of being a legal professional - most of us are recovering lawyers - so we want to help by tossing you that preferred life preserver of the legal profession, the short list.

Today's offering: five things to know about the Supreme Court healthcare appeal. While it's officially called the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and popularly known as Obamacare, the healthcare law made news again this week when a conservative advocacy group filed a petition challenging the law with the Supreme Court.

  1. Don't book your flight for oral arguments yet. The Supreme Court has not agreed to hear the case. Thomas More Law Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan filed a petition with the Court on July 27.
  2. Will the Court strike down the "death panels?" Ironic twist? The Supreme Court could be the death panel that decides if Obamacare will continue. The so-called death panels, and whether or not they were ever included in the healthcare bill, are not a part of this case. The two issues here are: does Congress have authority under the Commerce Clause to require private citizens to purchase and maintain "minimum essential" healthcare insurance, and is the individual insurance mandate valid when applied to the three individuals, two of whom do not have health insurance and do not plan on their own to obtain it?
  3. Why does Michigan get to have all the fun? The Michigan case is the first one to arrive on the Court's docket following a federal appeals court decision on the merits. Federal court decisions are forthcoming from the Fourth and Eleventh Circuits and other cases are moving forward in other appeals courts as well.
  4. What are the odds? Legal experts expect the Supreme Court to hear the case and ultimately decide whether the insurance mandate is constitutional, most likely during its upcoming term beginning in October, according to Reuters. Should the Court hear the case, it's anyone's guess as to how it will rule. If you start an office pool in your firm to predict the outcome, keep in mind that there's a reason why every lawyer remembers United States v. Lopez: it's one of the few cases in which the Supreme Court has limited congressional authority under the Commerce Clause.
  5. When will we know something? The Supreme Court is on summer recess until Monday, September 26. Since the Michigan challenge does not present an emergency, the Court is unlikely to comment on the case before then. Should the Sixth Circuit's sister circuits produce opinions on the merits in similar healthcare challenges before September 26, the Court may choose to consolidate the cases into a single challenge.

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