Skip to Main Content

Health Care and the Supreme Court

Health Care and the Supreme Court

This week the Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments in the Department of Health and Human Services v. State of Florida, et. al. (2012) case.   The case will decide the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act of 2010.  The justices will hear arguments about several portions of the law including whether the Court has jurisdiction in the case, whether Congress has the power to enact a minimum health coverage provision, whether the “Individual Mandate” portion of the law is within the powers of Congress, whether the law infringes upon the principles of federalism and/or state sovereignty.  Twenty-six states have challenged the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act.  The Supreme Court’s decision is expected in June.

Student Handout

Teacher Key

Bill of Rights Institute Resources

News Resources

Discussion Questions:

1.    What are the facts in the case? What are the constitutional questions?

2.    What is the “Individual Mandate”?

3.   What is the Anti-Injunction Act of 1867? Should it apply to this case?

4.  What is federalism? Should it apply to this case?

5.  What is the Commerce Clause? How does the Solicitor General, arguing in favor of the constitutionality of the law, say it should be interpreted to apply this case? How do the states argue it should be interpreted to apply to this case?

6.  Listen to the oral arguments. Which arguments do you find most persuasive, and why?

7.  Why do you think people approve or disapprove of the Affordable Health Care Act?

8.  Do you agree that the Supreme Court should not allow cameras in the courtroom?  Why or why not?


A. Conduct a class debate on the constitutionality of the Affordable Health Care Act.

-Randomly split the class into two groups.

-Assign each group one of the editorials below to assist in their arguments.

-Give the groups time to research and use any resources available to support their argument.  (They have to stay on the side of the argument in the article they read even if they personally disagree.)

-Allow each side to argue its case and then allow for debate.

Why the health care reform law is unconstitutional, CNN

Opinion: Exchange would offer high-quality, affordable health care,

B. Have students read Federalist Papers 39, 45, and 46 and discuss the questions: What concerns did people have about the balance of power between the federal government and state governments in 1788? What solutions does Madison say the Constitution offers? What actions does Madison say states may take when they perceive the federal government is acting outside its constitutional authority? How, if at all, have these concerns or proposed solutions changed in 2012?