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. MICKYD

    WHINE if you want, but if it is not mandatory to get insurance then you will still pay the premium whether you like it or not! County hospitals still provide free healthcare to illegal immigrants. Who pays for that! You do! In taxes! So if you want to whine and complain and appeal the healthcare law that I am sure you have not read and have no idea of what it say, then appeal it and you still pay! Which ever way you want!

    November 14, 2011 at 11:31 am | Report abuse |
    • vtguy

      Deport all illegal immigrants. How about a law that call for the illegals to prove they are citizens.

      November 14, 2011 at 11:53 am | Report abuse |
  2. Big Pharma go bye bye

    President Obama's National Healhcare reform includes stripping Big Pharmaceutical Giants of their 12 year grace period "right" to be the only ones who get to sell the highest technolgy medicines to American citizens. After President Obama's plan goes into effect, small generic pharmaceutical corporations will be allowed to sell these medicines. Small Pharma doesn't have Big Pharma's professional lobbyists who bribe Congress with millions, nor does Small Pharma have huge lawfirms that can tie-up wrongful death lawsuits nor bribe the victims families to keep their mouths shut.

    Wtg President Obama. I salute you, sir.

    November 14, 2011 at 11:32 am | Report abuse |
    • Big Pharma go bye bye

      @ shut_up. There is good and bad lurking in the hearts of all men and women. Just because Bill Clinton stained the Oval Office or George W. Bush's lies turned the walls brown doesn't meant that every single thing these men did was bad. Such is the case with President Obama. Just because he insists as Commander in Chief that sodomy remains outlawed for any active US service member doesn't mean that his heathcare reform is all bad.

      November 14, 2011 at 11:40 am | Report abuse |
  3. Ryan

    Obama, the Democrats and their STUPID individual mandate can go and STUFF IT!

    November 14, 2011 at 11:36 am | Report abuse |
    • 1nd3p3n3nt

      because medicaid isn't a mandate?
      do you even know how taxes work?

      November 14, 2011 at 11:53 am | Report abuse |
    • jrm

      Feel free to accept the penalty for being reckless – being part of a free society IS NOT FREE!

      November 14, 2011 at 11:54 am | Report abuse |
  4. MTV"s - Bevis n Butthead

    Uh bevis... What was this story even about.... I forgot...! Boy these comments really suc!.. And this story sucs too!..... I think it was something about crappy a$$ heath care for crappy a$$ people or something....... This story really suked.....

    November 14, 2011 at 11:51 am | Report abuse |
  5. ART

    To shut up[ you are a pile of dog excrement, you right wing Nazi

    November 14, 2011 at 11:54 am | Report abuse |
  6. Tangie

    @shut_up:
    "I salute you" is a figure of speech. No need to go ballistic over a figure of speech. You don't have to be in the military to be saluted, and as Commander-in-Chief, the POTUS gets saluted all the time.
    If one of the GOPers happens to get in by some miracle, they'll be saluted too. Moron.

    November 14, 2011 at 11:54 am | Report abuse |
  7. RobbyCanuck

    There is no suspense here. The SCUSA will simply vote politically, as they typically do as long as Edwards, Scalia, and Thomas are on the court. The SCUSA is a joke and an embarassment to the citizenry.

    November 14, 2011 at 11:59 am | Report abuse |
  8. WOT

    Insure your car by law but not your body, how insane!

    November 14, 2011 at 12:00 pm | Report abuse |
  9. MTV"s - Bevis n Butthead

    UH-H .... @ vtguy ? How about a law that calls for (US) citizens to prove they are U.S. Citizens..... Huuh huh. U dum-a$$... Huuh – huh........ Go back to school and play with yourself or something... Huuh-huh Huuh- huh..... A bevis why are u holding two 24 packs of toilet paper rolls ? U dum a$$..... Huuh-huh

    November 14, 2011 at 12:08 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Mr. Chip

    I think the federal government has the ability to impose a public mandated tax for health care. But I don't think they can force us to buy a private insurance plan from a for profit company. I want my public option!

    November 14, 2011 at 12:08 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Robert

    President Obama's National Healhcare reform includes stripping Big Pharmaceutical Giants of their 12 year grace period "right" to be the only ones who get to sell the highest technolgy medicines to American citizens.

    So the small generics can sell what big pharma invested billions in to develop based on protections.. Big Pharma will no longer invest in the R&D required to keep ahead of the game. And so the excuse for Obama and his socialist minions
    to take over and control all R & D, throwing Big Pharma under the bus and destroying the investment of millions of stockholders. But then, aren't they the 1% that deserves their wealth to be redistributed? Isn't this what the socialist pig Obama is about?

    November 14, 2011 at 12:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Get a clue Robert

      Big-Pharma doesn't do the work, they just collect the profits. Our tax dollars fund research, our Universities DO the research that leads to advanced medications and sciences. So HUGE is our national investment, that the avg. American citizen now owe's more on student loans than on credit card debt to banks. Even taking into cosideration the small percentage of US that have stock portfolios full of Big-Pharma investments is rediculous and besides the point. It would be like some fat cat crying is the price of gas dropped and it cost him some Big-Oil investment dividends.

      November 14, 2011 at 1:29 pm | Report abuse |
  12. jimbo

    shut_up – You sound like a very ignorant person. If you don't have anything good to say, you should just SHUT UP and maybe that way you will be considered sane!

    November 14, 2011 at 12:10 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Jeff

    These CNN blogs are messed up. You write something and it doesn't even show up on the board. Why bother commentiing? IT's like a cr@p shoot.

    November 14, 2011 at 12:10 pm | Report abuse |
  14. JustWho

    If you don't want to have health insurance, just die before you get into an ambulance. Will save us all a lot of money we pay for your selfishness.

    November 14, 2011 at 12:11 pm | Report abuse |
  15. JoePub

    This is a good thing, even the insurance companies want this mandate. Imagine having people forced to buy health insurance? I'm in the insurance business and things are looking great. My business is already picking up. Thank you Obama!! 🙂

    November 14, 2011 at 12:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • @Joe Pub[ic]

      ...as if insurance is a bad thing.

      November 14, 2011 at 1:31 pm | Report abuse |
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