ObamaCare Returns to Court


When the Supreme Court ruled on a state-led challenge to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. ObamaCare, over the summer, it settled many of the most prominent legal disputes about the law, at least as far as the court system is concerned. The law's individual insurance mandate was ruled constitutional, and several state requirements related to the law's Medicaid expansion were thrown out.

But the ruling didn't cover all of the provisions in the law that had been challenged in lower courts. Liberty University, a Christian college based in Lynchburg, Virginia, had launched challenges to both the law's employer mandate, which requires larger employers to provide health benefits to employees or pay fine, and its mandate for contraceptive coverage. The challenges didn't go anywhere, though, because the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that it could not decide merits of the Liberty's case until the law was fully in effect. (Many of ObamaCare's major provisions, including its employer and individual mandates, don't kick in until 2014.)

This morning, however, the Supreme Court granted Liberty University's request to vacate the Fourth Circuit's original judgment and reopen the case. The school argued that the employer mandate and contraception issues weren't settled and hadn't been given a full hearing. And the High Court agreed. Via Politico, here's the gist of Liberty's argument:

Liberty University argues that the law's employer coverage provisions — which will require businesses with more than 50 full-time workers to provide health insurance for their workers or face fines — are unconstitutional because Congress overstepped its power by setting those rules.

It also says the individual and employer mandates violate the Constitution's right to a free exercise of religion. The employer mandate is unconstitutional because of the contraception coverage requirement, Liberty argues, claiming that the individual mandate would require individuals to pay for coverage of abortions.

It's possible that we could see arguments on the case as early as next spring, which means that it's at least conceivable that ObamaCare could be headed back to the Supreme Court by the end of 2013.