The Supreme Court on Monday arranged for a Virginia university to go forward with new challenges to two key sections of the new federal health care law — the individual and employer mandates to have insurance coverage.
The Court did so by returning the case of Liberty University v. Geithner (docket 11-438) to the Fourth Circuit Court to consider those challenges. The Court last Term had simply denied review of Liberty University’s appeal, but on Monday wiped out that order and agreed to send the case back to the appeals court in Richmond for further review.
The Court’s decision last Term on the new health care law upheld, under Congress’s power to tax, the requirement that virtually all Americans have health insurance by 2014, or pay a penalty. That is the individual mandate. The law also contains a somewhat similar mandate, requiring all employers with more than fifty employees to provide them with adequate insurance coverage. The Court had declined to rule on that issue last Term.
Liberty University has been pursuing a challenge to both mandates, based on claims that they violate rights to religious freedom or to legal equality under the Constitution. It also challenges the employer mandate on the theory that it was beyond Congress’s powers under the Commerce Clause and the Necessary and Proper Clause. The Fourth Circuit had not ruled on any of those claims, because it ruled that Liberty was barred by the federal Anti-Injunction Act from suing to stop those mandates. That is one of the issues the Circuit Court will have to reconsider when the case is returned there. The Justices cleared the way for doing so by vacating and remanding the Circuit Court’s earlier decision.
The Obama Administration did not oppose the action announced Monday. However, it did tell the Court that it thinks that none of Liberty’s remaining challenges has legal merit and that, in any event, its challenge to the employer mandate was blocked by the Anti-Injunction Act. Presumably, the Administration will renew those arguments in the Fourth Circuit.