Healthcare Business News

High court invites two Washington lawyers to take part in reform law arguments

By Gregg Blesch
Posted: November 19, 2011 - 12:01 am ET

The U.S. Supreme Court invited two esteemed Washington lawyers to join the marathon oral arguments scheduled for its review of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

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In an order issued Nov. 18, H. Bartow Farr was asked to argue as a friend of the court that the requirement that individual's buy health insurance can be severed from the rest of the law, meaning its many other provisions could survive if the mandate is ruled unconstitutional. That was position of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta, which disagreed with U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson, Pensacola, Fla., that the entire law is void. Both Vinson and the appeals court ruled the mandate an overreach of congressional power.

Robert Long, meanwhile, was asked to argue in support of the position that it's too soon to challenge the mandate because it's technically a tax, and the Anti-Injunction Act bars lawsuits over taxes that have yet to be imposed. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond cited the law in rejecting a suit against the healthcare law.

The court announced Nov. 14 it would decide the fate of the law and would hear 5½ hours of arguments on four questions raised in petitions from the Obama administration, the National Federation of Independent Business, and officials representing 26 states. The court has not set a date for the arguments, but they're expected to take place in March with a decision coming in June.

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