Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Health Care Reform and 19th-Century Tax Law

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court began its hearings on the constitutionality of 2010’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). As this article from Slate magazine details, the arguments began with a discussion of a 19th-century tax law that calls into question whether the court should even be hearing the case at this point.

As Slate legal expert Dahlia Lithwick (a Charlottesville resident) notes, it’s a moot point. The PPACA hearings have long seemed destined to happen before the November presidential election, since both President Barack Obama and those who oppose his health care bill want the issue decided by then. The court had to appoint an outside advocate just to argue the idea that the court does not yet have jurisdiction to hear the case.

The case could have extra interest for CPAs, as one argument for its constitutionality seems to hinge on the question of whether or not the much-debated individual mandate constitutes a tax and is therefore under Congressional authority through its power to regulate interstate commerce. The individual mandate is set for discussion today, while Wednesday’s arguments will center on severability and the Medicaid expansion (or, as Lithwick puts it, “laser tag instead of 19th-century statutory interpretation”).

Click here to read coverage of the hearings from The Washington Post (Slate's parent company).

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