On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to review constitutional challenges to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Among the questions accepted for review, the most important involves whether individuals can be required to obtain health insurance or face alternative financial penalties. The states challenging the Act contend that this mandate exceeds federal powers, because it requires purchase of insurance by people who otherwise would choose not to participate. The Justice Department contends that all Americans use the health care system at some point in their lives, legally justifying the mandate.
Three of the four federal appellate courts to consider this question have declared that the mandate is constitutional. The Supreme Court will also consider arguments that would invalidate the entire health care reform law in the event that the individual mandate is found to be unconstitutional.
The Court set oral arguments on the case for March, with a decision expected by the close of the current term in June. The outcome of this case will directly affect employers' obligations under the Act to begin providing health care insurance to employees beginning in 2014.