November 14th, 2011
10:55 AM ET

Supreme Court agrees to hear health care law appeal; so what could ruling mean?

The Supreme Court has agreed to decide the constitutionality of the sweeping health care reform law championed by President Obama.

Oral arguments would probably be held in late February or March, with a ruling by June, assuring the blockbuster issue will become the topic of a hot-button political debate in a presidential election year.

The announcement, made in a brief, was expected as several legal challenges have worked their way through the appeals process.

So now that the Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case, what does it mean? And what could the political and legal implications be?

One of the key issues to be considered by the high court's nine justices is whether the "individual mandate" section of the law - requiring nearly all Americans to buy health insurance by 2014 or face financial penalties - is an improper exercise of federal authority. Various states have argued that if that linchpin provision is found unconstitutional, the entire law will have to be scrapped.

CNN Senior Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin said that while the challenge is a fairly straightforward legal question, the implications, especially the political ones, are huge.

"The federal government has to abide by the Constitution," Toobin said. "And the Constitution says that the federal government is allowed to regulate interstate commerce."

Under that umbrella fall Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid - some of the issues at the heart of Obama's health care plan, he said.

"The Obama administration says his health care plan is simply a reflection of the way the federal government has been involved in health care for many, many years," Toobin explained.

But many states that have filed the challenges say that Obama's plan is too far-reaching.

"Many states have challenged this and said, 'This is different because it requires individuals to buy a private product, that is health insurance,' and that is something [they feel] the federal government simply does not have the authority to do," Toobin said.

He said the issue has divided courts during the challenges to the health care law, but more courts have upheld it than have struck it down.

"But I think it's likely to be a close question in the Supreme Court, and it is certainly the most important case that the court has had since Bush v. Gore 11 years ago," Toobin said.

And it's also a ruling that could play a part in the 2012 election, he added.

"If the law is struck down, if the central achievement of President Obama's domestic policy is struck down, I think that would be very, very bad for him; the idea that he spent all this time on something that was unconstitutional," Toobin said. "If he wins, I think it's a benefit. Gratification by a basically conservative Supreme Court, I think, will be seen as a victory for him and will likely give him some momentum heading into the convention. But I think we really have to see."

CNN Chief  White House Correspondent Jessica Yellin said the White House feels confident about the challenge, given that three out of four circuit courts have ruled in favor of the law's constitutionality, including rulings coming from "some highly conservative judges."

Yellin said the issue's importance may increase, depending on who Obama faces in the race for president. If Mitt Romney is the nominee, an overturning of the law may not be as bad, because Romney supported an individual mandate in his state.

However, either way, an overturning of the law would not be seen in the best light for Obama as he asks the country to elect him for a second term.

"This was what he lobbied for more than anything else, and if it's overturned by the Supreme Court, it is not a happy day for the campaign or for the president." Yellin said. "That said, they don't expect it to be [overturned.]"

soundoff (62 Responses)
  1. bamasy

    Mmmmm:
    I agree totally with your last two statements.

    November 14, 2011 at 9:28 pm | Report abuse |
  2. banasy©

    *sigh*
    I must be tired.
    I misspelled my own name.
    If I misspell Mmmmm's, I'm *really* in trouble...

    November 14, 2011 at 9:30 pm | Report abuse |
  3. WOT

    It is all about self: I, my, me, and mine! Consider someone other than yourself, when it comes to this health issue. Up today may be down tomorrow. With the cost of one night in hospital, I could go to Paris, round trip from Tampa, Florida!

    November 15, 2011 at 12:54 am | Report abuse |
    • Str8Vision

      But as with mandated auto insurance once everyone is forced to have such coverage healthcare costs will rise. Obama's health care bill does nothing to control or lower costs. I'm paying $1200.00 mo for high option family coverage and my out of pocket for a serious hospital stay would bankrupt me. Too many people are getting outrageously wealthy off the illness/sickness of others. But that's the American way these days isn't it.

      November 16, 2011 at 2:41 pm | Report abuse |
  4. foreman

    How is this any different from the state mandate for auto insurance? If the health insurance mandate is struck down could the state mandate for auto insurance be struck down also?

    November 15, 2011 at 12:59 am | Report abuse |
    • calif Guy

      The requirement for auto insurance is not a mandate, you have the choice "not to drive". Nobody will force you to buy auto insurance, if you choose not to drive.

      November 15, 2011 at 2:24 am | Report abuse |
  5. *cosmicvox*

    @foreman, as stated above, if you don't drive you don't Have to buy vehicle insurance. Employers are scared to death of Obamacare. They are afraid to hire and alot of them have already let many employee's go just in anticipation of it.

    November 15, 2011 at 1:32 am | Report abuse |
  6. gung hoe

    @ cosmicvox You are so correct about employers and obama care.My wife works at a hospital that 3 short yrs ago had 2000 full time employees.But not now between layoofs and retirement without rehireing. The hospitals goal is to get down below 50 fulltime workers before obomacare kicks in so as they are not required to furnish healthcare.

    November 15, 2011 at 2:49 am | Report abuse |
  7. Jj

    see what happens when gov't gets their hands in things?

    November 15, 2011 at 4:56 am | Report abuse |
  8. WeAreThe97Percent

    Obamacare = raise tax of middle class. You have to believe it.

    Current system, ER and Medicare is pay with tax payers’ money. Tax payers composed 95% of tax money. By having everyone paying for healthcare (and poor people get subsidization), Obama transfer the burden of paying healthcare from the rich to the middle class.

    Repeal Obamacare!!! Tax the rich to pay for healthcare.

    November 15, 2011 at 5:32 am | Report abuse |
    • LANA

      TO ALL:
      I AM ON MEDICAID IN INDIANA.....IT IS NOT FREE.......TO ME OR OTHERS ON IT.
      I AM NOT GETTING A "FREE RIDE ON TAXPAYERS" .....I WORK AND PAY TAXES....
      NOT SIT HOME ON MY BUTT SMOKING CRACK, DRINKING A 40 OZ AND LIVING IN
      A DOUBLE WIDE W/PINK FLAMINGOS ON THE "FAT OF THE MAN".
      AS OFTEN MISREPRESENTED AND PERCEIVED.....AND I HAVE ALL MY TEETH , DO NOT LIVE IN A GHETTO AND AM EDUCATED.
      AND HAVE TO PAY FOR MY MEDICAID.......SPIN DOWN......$ 500-$ 1,000 .....
      WHEN .....NOT WORKING AND LAID OFF.....AND $100......AND $300 CO-PAYS FOR ALL MY MEDICINE.
      SO.....THINK ABOUT THAT NEXT TIME YOU VOTE AND FALL FOR STEREO -TYPING OF POOR PEOPLE ON SOCIAL
      PROGRAMS....LEARN THE TRUTH.

      November 21, 2011 at 11:56 am | Report abuse |
  9. You idiots

    Huge Big-Pharma pharmaceutical profits are what drags our healthcare system down. Insurance only accounts for about 4% of our total national healthcare expenditures, but spend more on drugs than we do on national defense. President Obama's plan takes a big chunk out of Big Pharma's excessive profits and gives it to small-pharma and YOU. (GENERIC MEDS ARE CHEPER THAN NAME BRAND) You all sound like what you saw on TV, only on the 7th grade level. They feed you your opinions each day, and then you post them here as if you know what's going on in the world. Amazing how fat and ignorant America is these days. (right, as if obesity is a sure sign of wisdom)

    November 15, 2011 at 10:29 am | Report abuse |
    • Tony

      Great point. People like to talk for the sake of it. To start hospital are not eliminating employess because Obama care. They are doing so, because people learned that going thru the emergency room they can get a free care and hospital can't denied the care.

      November 23, 2011 at 6:34 am | Report abuse |
  10. You idiots

    Taxpayers already pay for about 70% of everyones insurance. Government employees produce nothing that can be exported for profit...their wages AND insurance are paid for by the taxpayer who does produce. And then you have the millions on early social security disabilty...all living off of US. Over 70 million are on social security producing squat. 1/3 of our workforce carries the other 2/3. Even if the taxpayer paid for 100% of national heath insurance, we would save about 2%, maybe. Big-pharma is who rips US off the most with Dr's pushing their mind dulling and fat making drugz. PERIOD, and hagd. :)

    November 15, 2011 at 10:37 am | Report abuse |
    • Tony

      Cost of drugs and hospital supplies is what is killing the pockets of the american people. I guess no one whats to see the truth, because they are feed so much controlling media. All my doctors friends complain that the cost of drugs and their personal liability insurance is killing their practice. Because of that doctors are starting to form partneships or corporations to survive

      November 23, 2011 at 6:39 am | Report abuse |
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