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Stakes high for legal challenge to Obama's health care bill

By By Matthew Rusling (Xinhua)

08:54, August 18, 2011

WASHINGTON, Aug. 17 (Xinhua) -- U.S. President Barack Obama's health care law is expected to head to the Supreme Court, but opponents of his reforms could be left with no further legal options if the law is upheld.

"If health care critics lose their challenge in the Supreme Court to Obama's reform, they are out of legal bullets," said Darrell M. West, vice president and director of governance studies at the Brookings Institution.

Health care reform has been a major source of friction between Democrats and Republicans since Obama introduced the landmark legislation his first year in office.

Last week, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Congress and the White House overstepped their legal boundaries by imposing the "individual mandate" a provision of the health care reform that requires people to purchase insurance or be slapped with a monetary penalty.

After a number of Republican legal attacks, the bill is expected to head next to the U.S. Supreme Court.

"The legal challenges are almost exhausted, and we'll have a final ruling from the Supreme Court within a year," said David Kendall, senior fellow for health policy at Third Way.

White House senior advisor Stephanie Cutter argued on the White House website that the individual mandate is constitutional because taxpayers must foot the bill for those without insurance, which is an economic decision that impacts all Americans.

Indeed, many uninsured Americans utilize hospital emergency rooms when they get sick, and by law they cannot be turned away. If they do not pay out of pocket, there is a cost to taxpayers and insurance companies.

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, an opponent of the law, told Fox News on Monday that the individual mandate is tantamount to forcing people to purchase a product simply by being alive, and argued that such a law is unconstitutional.

She said she is confident that the law will be repealed in the Supreme Court, adding that last week's appeal was a bi-partisan decision, as one judge who wrote the opinion was an appointee of former Democratic President Bill Clinton.

Kendall said the question that will go to the Supreme Court is simply one of the reach of the commerce clause -- a constitutional provision that empowers Congress to regulate commerce with U.S. states and foreign nations.

It would be difficult for the Supreme Court to rule that lawmakers cannot regulate health insurance when Congress has already regulated many other areas related to the selling of insurance, he said.

Some experts said that without the mandate, Obama's reform law cannot stand, as the mandate is expected to pay for it.

Polls have found Obama's health care plan to be unpopular with the public, although some of the provisions within the law are more popular when viewed individually.

A majority of voters continue to favor repeal of the national health care law, according to a Rasmussen poll released on Monday.

A survey of likely U.S. voters showed that 54 percent at least somewhat favor repeal of the health care law, including 39 percent who strongly favor it, and most voters have favored repeal of the measure every week except one since it was passed by Congress 17 months ago, the polling company found.

Last month, a study from the National Federation of Independent Business found that businesses with fewer than 50 employees are deeply skeptical of Obama's health care reforms, reflecting concerns that the law could stifle hiring and increase the costs of taking on new employees.

U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Thomas J. Donohue has noted that the new law creates more than 150 new agencies, commissions, panels and other bodies a great cost to taxpayers and grants "extraordinary" powers to the Department of Health and Human Services to redefine health care.

Kendall said the Republicans' job-killing argument is merely political.

"I think that argument is mostly about politics. They characterize all of President Obama's major initiatives as job- killing because jobs are the top issue for the public," he said.

Kendall said the health care overhaul will create greater labor mobility, as people will no longer be tied to a job to receive health care benefits.

Some economists believe that having consumers purchase coverage directly through an insurance exchange, which is part of the plan, will help hold down spending on insurance.

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NSGYneYGZCsbsxzZk at 2011-09-1189.134.144.*
Haahahha. I"m not too bright today. Great post!
  

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