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Papers show how the Administration will defend health insurance mandate

Ernie Shannon's picture
Health insurance papers filed with Supreme Court

The Obama administration has fired a shot across the bow in the soon-to-be debated health care overhaul before the Supreme Court.

The administration filed papers with the court on Friday arguing that the mandated portion of the health care program, the most controversial aspect of the new law, is constitutional and should be upheld by the justices when they hear the case in late March. Friday’s submission suggested that given the “supreme national importance (of health insurance) that consumes 18 percent of the U.S. economy” the mandate falls within Congress’ power under the Constitution’s Commerce Clause. However, 25 states disagree and have joined together to file suit against the federal government’s intrusion and they’re supported by the National Federation of Independent Business as well as 36 GOP senators.

Supporters of the health care reform law say it’s intent is to extend medical coverage to some 30 million Americans with no coverage and should reduce the percentage of citizens without medical insurance to five percent from the present 17 percent. Opponents argue the costs will be prohibitive, the administration of the program fraught with bureaucracy, and it is unconstitutional.

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The Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals came to a similar decision last year concluding Congress had overstepped its bounds. Another appeals court refused to act at this time ruling that it was too soon to cast judgment on the law. Two other appeals courts have let the statute stand.

In its bid to keep the law legal, administration officials said that today, while people may lack insurance, they still get treatment meaning the costs get passed on to the insured. In terms of expense, half the program’s costs would come from revenue derived from the mandate while the other half would be covered by an expansion of Medicaid. The new law has attracted intense opposition from Republicans, including the party’s current slate of presidential candidates, because, they say, it requires people to purchase a product or pay a significant fine if they fail to do so.

The health reform plan was signed into law in 2010 when some aspects of it became effective immediately. Other provisions became lawful throughout 2010 and last year while other provisions go into effect this year and next. The whole program should be operational by 2014 if not struck down by the Supreme Court.

The High Court agreed last year to hear the landmark case in late March and said a decision could come by June.
Image source of U.S. Supreme Court: Wikipedia