Supreme Court orders new legal review for the ACA

Court of Appeals will reopen Liberty University's case

Topics: Access to Care, Quality, Performance Improvement

November 27, 2012

The Supreme Court on Monday ordered the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to rehear arguments by Liberty University challenging the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) employer coverage requirements and contraceptive coverage rules.

In the lawsuit, the Virginia-based conservative Christian university and five Virginia residents argued that Congress exceeded its constitutional authority by requiring the university and other similar entities and businesses that employ more than 50 people to provide health insurance coverage. Liberty argued that it could face as much as $1.1 million in fines if the requirement is upheld.

The lawsuit also claimed that the individual mandate violates the school's and individuals' religious rights because some of the money collected through new insurance regulations would be used to cover abortion care, which the university opposes.

In November 2010, U.S. District Court Judge Norman Moon dismissed the lawsuit. The school then filed an appeal in the 4th U.S. Circuit Court. In September 2011, judges at the 4th Circuit Court ruled 2-1 that the plaintiffs do not have standing to challenge the individual mandate because the federal Anti-Injunction Act requires U.S. residents to wait to oppose a tax until after it is collected.

The Supreme Court ultimately ruled that the ACA's penalty for not purchasing health coverage is a tax, but it found that the Anti-Injunction Act did not apply. The justices then rejected all other pending appeals, including Liberty's suit.

However, the high court on Monday agreed to Liberty University's request to reopen its oral arguments against the ACA provisions with the 4th Circuit, which could begin as early as next spring. The school's lawyers aim to bring the suit back before the Supreme Court by next fall (Haberkorn, Politico, 11/26).

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