WASHINGTON -- March madness is coming to the Supreme Court next year. The justices have designated three days, March 26 to March 28, as the oral argument dates for the health care cases.
The Court agreed to hear the challenges to the Affordable Care Act in November, setting aside an extraordinary five and a half hours for oral argument.
The main event will be on Tuesday, March 27, when the Court will take up the constitutionality of the health care law's minimum coverage requirement. That provision, commonly called the individual mandate, requires virtually all Americans to purchase health insurance or pay a penalty. The Court has set aside two hours for argument over whether Congress' passage of the individual mandate exceeded the legislature's powers to regulate interstate commerce or lay and collect taxes under Article I of the Constitution.
On Monday, March 26, the Court will hear an hour of argument over whether a Reconstruction-era federal statute, the Anti-Injunction Act, bars the justices from making a decision on the individual mandate's constitutionality until after the provision goes into effect in 2014.
The Court will consider two additional issues on Wednesday, March 28. Ninety minutes will be dedicated to whether the individual mandate is so central to the health care overhaul that the entire law must fall should the justices find the mandate itself unconstitutional. An additional hour of argument will address 26 states' claim that the law improperly expands Medicaid by coercively conditioning states' receipt of federal funds on their participation in the new health care exchange system.
These three days of oral argument will occur almost exactly two years after President Barack Obama signed the Affordable Care Act, sparking a slew of lawsuits across the country.
The four courts of appeals to consider the issues now before the Supreme Court have split on the constitutionality of the individual mandate and the application of the Anti-Injunction Act, but have all rejected the challengers' arguments about state coercion and the centrality of the individual mandate.
The justices' decision in the health care cases will likely come down at the end of June.