The Department of Justice, upon the request of Judge Roger Vinson, filed a request for an expedited appeal to the Eleventh circuit last Tuesday. This, in exchange for a clear issuing of a ‘stay’ from the Judge that requires states to continue implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) while the appeals court determines the case. This is important to all parties involved – first, because the Administration wants implementation to proceed and second, because opponents want the individual mandate challenge to reach the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS).

Currently, there is a flurry of legal activity. In the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, a hearing is scheduled for mid-May that combines two cases (one lower court ruling in support of the ACA – Liberty University) and one against (Virginia). In the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, a Michigan ruling in support of the ACA is being challenged by the Thomas More Law Center on grounds that the ACA’s use of an individual mandate (requiring citizens to purchase health insurance) is unconstitutional. The Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals case is scheduled for the beginning of June. But the big story last week was that the Eleventh U.S. Circuit of Appeals would enter the march to SCOTUS by scheduling hearings beginning early summer.

So what? First, the Fourth and Sixth Circuit rulings appear less likely, according to legal analysts, to make it to SCOTUS. The larger case brought by multiple states and Attorneys General and led by Florida is the focus of the ACA court challenges – first, because the ruling by Judge Vinson effectively dismantled the entire law and second, the plaintiff list is lengthy and includes over 20 states. The prime focus of the case is the individual mandate.

There is some good news. The directive to states: No more whining – implement. The resulting stay from Vinson, even with strings attached, clearly tells states that they must implement the ACA while the case moves through the court system. This is great news for advocates and Americans. Need an Exchange? Build it. Have a pre-existing condition? We’ve got you covered. Under 26 with no health insurance? Give Mom and Dad a call.

And we all march forward… If these cases move rapidly enough to land on the 2012 SCOTUS docket, then it will be a challenge for ACA supporters. This is because the issue of health reform will once again be the center of attention during election season in lieu of a much more pressing issue – joblessness. While this is a frustrating outlook, the path to success does not change. All roads lead to public education – the ACA is the opportunity to give American’s a fair chance to have a healthier life. Spread the word.

— Eva Marie Stahl, Policy Analyst