From USA Today –
Next month’s challenge to the Obama-sponsored health care law could affect the care available to most Americans, alter the balance of power between Washington and the states and remain a flash point through this presidential campaign.
Yet there is a path the Supreme Court could take when it hears the case that could delay for years any resolution of a main point of contention.
The core of the law is a requirement that most people buy health insurance by 2014 or face a tax penalty. But looming over the case is a federal policy that restricts the timing of lawsuits connected to the assessment and collection of “any tax.”
On the first day of their historic session March 26-28, the justices will consider that policy and address whether people who challenge the insurance requirement must first pay the disputed tax and seek a refund before bringing a lawsuit. If the answer is yes, the legal fight over a key part of the law could be delayed, possibly until 2015.
None of the main parties to the litigation is arguing for that option, which would prolong confusion over the law’s constitutionality. Yet the high court could find that the law demands it. Further, the nine justices are deeply divided ideologically, and the option might be a way to avoid deepening the fault lines and edge the court out of the spotlight this election year.