Supreme Court Declines Baldwin Case


By Hadley Heath


Don’t be misled by the headlines this week that say that the Supreme Court has declined to rule on the health care law.  It’s true that in one case, Baldwin v. Sebelius, the justices decided it was too early.  This case had not gone all the way through the appellate courts, but was instead seeking to skip directly to the Supreme Court.  Even the Washington Post agreed that “a decision by the justices to step in now would be highly unusual.”

One issue at stake in the “ripeness” of nearly all the health care lawsuits is the effective date of the individual mandate.  Everyone will be required to buy health insurance, but not until 2014.  But this has not stopped the cases in Florida, Virginia, or even Michigan.  The dismissal in Michigan came from Judge Steeh was based on his opinion of the individual mandate, not on the ripeness of the case.  In fact, he made it a point that the case was not premature, writing:

Plaintiffs’ decisions to forego certain spending today, so they will have the funds to pay for health insurance when the Individual Mandate takes effect in 2014, are injuries fairly traceable to the Act for the purposes of conferring standing. There is nothing improbable about the contention that the Individual Mandate is causing plaintiffs to feel economic pressure today.

The Supreme Court’s declination of the Baldwin case was not due to a “ripeness” problem.  Even Judge Steeh, who ruled against Plaintiffs in the Thomas More case, recognized that Plaintiffs who challenge the individual mandate provision have a ripe case. 

The Supreme Court declined to take the Baldwin case because the case had not gone through all the levels of appeal.  The SCOTUS almost never takes a case like this.  So, what can we expect?  Experts on both sides (for and against ObamaCare) say that the Supreme Court is likely to hear one of the cases.  We just don’t know which one it will be.


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