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PPACA case still in Supreme Court pipeline

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The U.S. Supreme Court has given at least a few more weeks of life to a challenge to the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (PPACA).

Liberty University and other PPACA opponents are still trying to persuade the court to take up the case, Liberty University et al. vs. Geithner et al. (Number 11-438).

The court announced Monday that Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and other PPACA defenders must respond to Liberty University’s request for a rehearing by Oct. 31.

scales of justice

Liberty University, a private university in Lynchburg, Va., and two of the university employees sued to try to overturn PPACA in a U.S. District Court in Lynchburg in 2010. The plaintiffs are objecting to a PPACA provision that imposes a tax on individuals who fail to buy a minimum amount of health coverage. The university and its employees also object to a “shared responsibility” provision that requires employers with more than 50 full-time employees to provide health benefits or else pay a penalty.

The plaintiffs have accused Congress of going beyond the authority it has under the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution to regulate interstate commerce.
In another part of the suit, the plaintiffs have accused Congress of violating the Taxing and Spending Clause of the Constitution in a way likely to lead to significant financial hardships.

The Taxing and Spending Clause “only grants Congress the power to impose taxes upon certain purchases, not to impose taxes upon citizens who choose not to purchase something such as health insurance,” the plaintiffs have argued.

The individual mandate, in particular, assesses “a direct tax that is not apportioned according to census data or other population-based measurement,” in violation of Congress’s taxing power, the plaintiffs have argued.

A Lynchburg judge ruled against the plaintiffs in November 2010.

A 3-judge panel at the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals voted 2-1 to dismiss an appeal in September 2011. The panel held that the plaintiffs were going to court to block a tax, and that the  Anti-Injunction Act prevents federal courts from blocking new federal taxes before the taxes actually take effect.

The plaintiffs then filed an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court ruled June 28 that Congress does have the authority to impose a tax on individuals who fail to have enough health coverage.

The next day, June 29, the Supreme Court denied Liberty University’s petition for review of the 4th Circuit ruling. The university is in the process of trying to get the court to reconsider that ruling.

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