The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case filed by 26 states challenging the constitutionality of national healthcare reform. The case is based on the constitutionality of the individual mandate in the law, which requires that all Americans purchase health insurance. The nine-member court will also look at the tax implications of the law as well as severability -- meaning if the individual mandate is defeated, can the rest of the law survive since it is primarily built on the revenues collected by forcing people to buy healthcare insurance.
The individual mandate requirement has been the subject of several lawsuits, with some federal judges ruling it unconstitutional and others upholding the law. More than half the states have sued to challenge the law, saying Congress overstepped its constitutional authority. The Supreme Court will decide the fate of the healthcare law this term, which runs through June 2012.
This sets the stage for the issue to become front and center with the national election next year. Hearings are likely to begin in March 2012 and the case would likely be decided by June 2012, just four months from the 2012 election day. A Supreme Court ruling sooner, rather than later, will help remove legal uncertainty surrounding the healthcare law. If the Supreme Court finds the individual coverage mandate unconstitutional, the decision could threaten parts of the healthcare law, including the future exchanges.
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