Supreme Court Hears Case On Tax Or Penalty In Health Care

10:41 PM, Mar 27, 2012   |    comments
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WASHINGTON DC (WUSA) --One of the few things both the Obama administration and its critics agree on is that the Supreme Court does have jurisdiction over hearing the case on the Affordable Health Care Act.

Supreme Court Justices heard arguments on Monday in the first of a three-day hearing on Department of Health and Human Services, et. al, Petitioners, VS. Florida, et. al.

The Supreme Court appointed Robert Long to argue that the penalty for failing to buy health insurance is technially a tax.

Under the 1867 Anti-Injunction Act, the justices are barred from reviewing a tax until after someone has paid.

"The Anti-Injunction Act imposes a "pay first, litigate later" rule that is central to Federal tax assessment and collection," said Long.

Almost mmediately, the justices cut into Long's argument.

"And so why is this a tax?" asked Justice Stephen Breyer. "...and this is not attached to a tax. It is attached to a health care requirement."

Throughout the Affordable Health Care for America Act, Congress called the sliding fee for failing to buy health insurance -- the individual mandate -- a penalty. It was not termed a 'tax.'

Gregory Katsas argued the case for health care reform opponents.

"The law is crystal clear that penalties aren't taxes. And in any event, we're not challenging the penalty. We're challenging the obligation to buy insurance," Katsas said.

The Obama Administration is walking a fine line here, because on Tuesday, it will argue that one of the Constitutional provisions that allows for healthcare reform is Congress's power to tax.

Written by: Bruce Leshan


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