The US Supreme Court [official website] agreed Monday to hear arguments on the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) [text; JURIST backgrounder]. The court granted certiorari [order list, PDF] in three separate cases, reserving five-and-half-hours for oral argument on the issue. The court agreed to hear two hours of arguments on the constitutionality of the individual insurance mandate issue in Department of Health and Human Services v. Florida [docket; cert. petition, PDF]. The court will consider Issue 1, which asks, "whether Congress had the power under Article I of the Constitution to enact the minimum coverage provision." The court also directed parties to brief and argue the question of whether the challenge to PPACA is barred by the Anti-Injunction Act [26 USC § 7421(a)], reserving one hour for argument on that issue. The court consolidated the cases of National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius [docket; cert. petition, PDF] and Florida v. Department of Health and Human Services [docket; cert. petition, PDF] and will hear 90 minutes of oral argument on the question of whether the individual mandate provision can be severed from the remainder of the act. Finally, the court will hear one hour of oral argument on the question of Medicaid expansionIssue 1 in Florida v. Department of Health and Human Services: "Does Congress exceed its enumerated powers and violate basic principles of federalism when it coerces States into accepting onerous conditions that it could not impose directly by threatening to withhold all federal funding under the single largest grant-in-aid program...?"
All three cases that the court agreed to hear arose out of the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, which ruled in August that the individual mandate is unconstitutional but severable [JURIST report], upholding the rest of the law. The court took no action on an appeal by the Thomas More Law Center of a Sixth Circuit ruling upholding the individual mandate [JURIST reports]. The court also did not act on appeals by Virginia and Liberty University of two Fourth Circuit rulings which dismissed their challenges for lack of standing [JURIST reports]. Last week, the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld the constitutionality [JURIST report] of PPACA.
Also Monday, the court granted certiorari in two other cases. In Astrue v. Capato [docket; cert. petition, PDF], the court will rule on whether a child who was conceived after the death of a biological parent, but who cannot inherit personal property from that biological parent under applicable state intestacy law, is eligible for child survivor benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act [42 USC § 401 et seq.]. There is a circuit split [JURIST report] on the issue. In Armour v. Indianapolis [docket; cert. petition, PDF], the court will decide whether the Equal Protection Clause precludes a local taxing authority from refusing to refund payments made by those who have paid their assessments in full, while forgiving the obligations of identically situated taxpayers who chose to pay over a multi-year installment plan.