The Supreme Court and the Affordable Care Act: March 26 Arguments

This morning the Supreme Court of the United States heard arguments related to the timing of the health reform case.

The Affordable Care Act includes a provision that requires most individuals to carry health insurance. Those who do not must pay a penalty. This provision takes effect in 2014; the first penalties would be assessed in April 2015, when 2014 income taxes are due. There are some exceptions to this requirement, including ones for people with low incomes or who receive insurance through the Indian Health Service.

The Tax Anti-Injunction Act of 1876 (AIA), 26 USC §7421, states that suits regarding taxes cannot go to the court until after the tax is paid. The Supreme Court heard arguments today on whether the penalty for failure to purchase insurance is a tax, for the purposes of the law, and if so, whether that tax precludes any court decision regarding the law until the tax is due (in April 2015).

Both the plaintiffs and the defendant in the case argued that the court can hear the rest of the case right now. The court appointed a third attorney to argue that the AIA blocks the court from hearing this case until 2015. Most of those who were present today agree that the court will rule that the AIA does not bar them from ruling on the other elements of the case at this time.

Tomorrow’s oral arguments begin at 10:00 a.m. EDT and will consider whether Congress can require most individuals to have health insurance.

A transcript of today’s arguments can be found at the Supreme Court website.

For a more detailed analysis of today’s argument see SCOTUSblog or listen to a three-minute audio clip.

Posted on in Advocacy