The Supreme Court announced on December 19, 2011 that oral arguments on President Barack Obama’s sweeping U.S. healthcare overhaul will last an unprecedented 5-1/2 hours spread over three days from March 26, 2012 until March 28, 2012. The healthcare debate will center primarily on the “individual mandate” which requires that Americans carry health insurance or pay a penalty. This blog post has been following the healthcare challenge over the last year. [See blog articles dated 1-18-11, 2-1-11, 3-16-11, 5-19-11, 12-1-2011]. The Administration claims that the Constitution’s commerce clause gives Congress the power to force Americans to buy healthcare insurance or pay a fine. The debate (framed by the Courts) does not really involve the healthcare system at all. It is principally about the federal system and whether the federal government can require citizens to purchase a commercial product in a private market. Whether that individual mandate falls outside the boundaries of Congress’ commerce clause authority is the constitutional question that the Supreme Court will face. There have only been a handful of marathon 5-1/2 hour oral arguments over the past 70 years. This length of oral argument is a huge departure from a typical one hour allotment. Washington State’s Republican gubernatorial candidate, Rob McKenna, is part of a number of Republican attorney generals from various states who have challenged the federal healthcare insurance mandate. McKenna’s political success in the upcoming gubernatorial election may be in part tied to the outcome of the this case before the Supreme Court.
References: The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg