By BVN Staff –
As expected, the Supreme Court has agreed to decide the constitutionality of the sweeping health care reform law championed by President Barack Obama.
The just ices made their announcement in a brief order issued Monday. Oral arguments are likely to be held in late February or March, with a ruling by June, assuring the blockbuster issue will become a hotbutton political debate in a presidential election year.
The high court agreed to hear two major questions: whether the law's key provision is unconstitutional, and if so, whether the entire law, with its 450 sections, must be scrapped. Five and a half hours of oral arguments have been scheduled. Other related cases are pending and may also be added to the docket.
The largest and broadest legal challenge to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act comes from a joint filing by 26 states, led by Florida. It was that series of appeals the high court accepted for review.
At issue is whether the "individual mandate" section -- requiring nearly all Americans to buy health insurance by 2014 or face financial penalties -- is an improper exercise of federal authority. The states also say that if that linchpin provision is unconstitutional, the entire law must be also go.
Joining Florida in the challenge are Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
Virginia and Oklahoma have filed separate challenges, along with other groups and individuals opposed to the law.
"We know the Affordable Care Act is constitutional and are confident the Supreme Court will agree," said White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer in a news release issued after the court made its announcement.
The National Federation of Business, a key player in opposing the law, said it is pleased the court will address the larger issues. "For the smallbusiness community, this comes not a day too soon," said Dan Danner, the group's CEO.
"The health care law has not lived up to its promises of reducing costs, allowing citizens to keep their coverage or improving a cumbersome system that has long been a burden to smallbusiness owners and employees, alike. The small-business community can now have hope; their voices are going to be heard in the nation's highest court."
Many provisions of the law have not yet taken effect, but the White House, in its release, said that under the provisions that have, "one million more young Americans have health insurance, women are getting mammograms and preventive services without paying an extra penny out of their own pocket, and insurance companies have to spend more of your premiums on health care instead of advertising and bonuses."
Three federal appeals courts have found the PPACA to be constitutional, while another has said it is not, labeling it "breathtaking in its expansive scope."
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