Friday, January 13, 2012

U.S. files brief with Supreme Court on PPACA’s minimum coverage provision

The minimum coverage provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) is a valid exercise of Congress' commerce power, according to the Solicitor General's brief in HHS v. Florida (No. 11-398), which was filed with the Supreme Court on January 6, 2012. In HHS v. Florida, the Eleventh Circuit ruled that the minimum coverage provision is unconstitutional. The respondents' briefs are due on February 6, and the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on the issue on March 27.

The U.S. brief argues that:

  • Congress has broad power under the Commerce and Necessary and Proper Clauses to enact economic regulation;
  • the minimum coverage provision is an integral part of a comprehensive scheme of economic regulation; and
  • the minimum coverage provision itself regulates economic conduct with a substantial effect on interstate commerce.
The brief also argues that Congress' taxing power provides an independent ground to uphold the minimum coverage provision. The practical operation of the minimum coverage provision is a tax law, and the only consequences of a failure to maintain minimum coverage are tax consequences, according to the brief.

"The fact that the minimum coverage provision --like longstanding tax provisions such as the exclusion of employer-paid health insurance premiums from employees' taxable income --is intended to encourage health insurance coverage has no bearing on the taxing power inquiry," the brief states.


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