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This Week: Will the Court Strike Obama's Healthcare Law?

October 7, 2014

As the Supreme Court considers President Obama’s healthcare law this week, Goldwater Institute Senior Attorney Diane Cohen will be your guide to the proceedings. Today, Diane offers an overview of what the Court will look at in each day’s arguments; Tuesday through Thursday, she’ll recap the previous day’s activities.


Oral arguments begin today in the lawsuit brought by 26 states, along with the National Federation of Independent Business and individual plaintiffs, which originated in the Florida federal district court. The case has finally reached the highest court in the land and has done so in an unprecedented fashion, with more than six hours of oral argument taking place over the next three days. Here’s a look at how the week will unfold:

Today the Court will hear 90 minutes of argument on the issue of whether a federal law that bars pre-enforcement challenges to tax laws, the Anti-Injunction Act, bars the challenge to the individual mandate, which carries with it a penalty for non-compliance. The Court will consider whether the penalty is a tax and thus, whether the lawsuit can be brought in the courts now or whether the plaintiffs must wait until the penalty is actually imposed in 2015 to challenge it.

On Tuesday, the Court will hear two hours of argument on the individual mandate, the centerpiece of the President’s healthcare law. The Court will consider whether Congress exceeded its authority under the Commerce Clause by mandating that nearly every American purchase government-approved health insurance.

On Wednesday, the final day, the Court will hear 90 minutes of argument on the severability issue. The Court will consider whether, in the event the mandate is found unconstitutional, all or some of the remainder of the Act must also be stricken.

The Court will conclude Wednesday’s proceedings by hearing one hour of oral argument on the law’s Medicaid expansion provisions. Here the Court will decide whether Congress exceeded its powers and violated basic principles of federalism by coercing the states into accepting onerous conditions on Medicaid, the nation’s single largest grant-in-aid program. These conditions mandate that states expand their Medicaid eligibility pools, which will cost billions of dollars, or be cut off from the program altogether, which is not a viable alternative at all.

The Goldwater Institute has filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court which addresses how the individual mandate threatens to quash a traditional exercise of state sovereignty that directly serves the structural purpose of federalism: the protection of individual liberty and decentralized local governance guaranteed by the Bill of Rights. We address this issue specifically because Arizona and 13 other states have enacted or adopted “Health Care Freedom Laws,” which protect individual freedom of choice in health care plans. In our brief, we argue that such federal overreaching must be rejected if the vertical separation of powers established by our Constitution is to mean anything at all. You can read our brief on our website.

The Court is expected to rule by late June. The fate of the Florida case will also determine the fate of the several other lawsuits pending around the country, including the Goldwater Institute’s challenge that has been stayed in the federal district court in Phoenix pending the Supreme Court’s decision.

Should the Court either uphold the mandate or strike it down but sever it from the remainder of the Act, the Goldwater Institute’s lawsuit will continue. Our suit is the only one in the country that seeks to strike down the Independent Payment Advisory Board, the board of unelected and unaccountable bureaucrats who will have unchecked power to regulate Medicare and beyond.

This is one of the most significant cases in history, and I look forward to guiding you through this week’s proceedings.

Learn more about the Supreme Court proceedings and the Goldwater Institute’s lawsuit:

Goldwater Institute: Coons v. Geithner

Goldwater Institute: Rationing by Any Other Name: The Independent Payment Advisory Board



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