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Health insurance: the mandate requiring most Americans to obtain

The Obama administration has previewed its initial line of defense in what has become a stream of lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the individual mandate in the federal health system reform law. And with both sides firmly digging in their heels, experts predict a prolonged legal fight that could go as far as the U.S. Supreme Court.The administration said the mandate requiring most Americans to obtain health insurance coverage or face a tax penalty is not only an integral part of the reform law, but also falls well within Congress’ powers to regulate areas impacting interstate commerce — in this case, health care.
That’s according to a May 11 brief the government filed in response to a lawsuit the conservative Thomas More Law Center and four uninsured individuals initiated in a Michigan federal court the day the landmark legislation was signed. The lawsuit contends that individuals who choose not to buy health insurance are not engaging in any economic activity subject to federal regulation. Such claims are “flatly wrong,” White House lawyers said. Decisions not to purchase health insurance affect interstate commerce by shifting costs to third parties. “Congress determined that the health care system in the U.S. is in crisis, spawning public expense and private tragedy,” and thus it approved comprehensive health reform to deal with the problem, the brief states.
The Dept. of Health and Human Services reiterates that stance in a motion it filed May 24 asking a Virginia federal court to dismiss a similar challenge launched by state Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli immediately following the law’s enactment. The lawsuit further alleges that the federal mandate conflicts with a Virginia statute prohibiting health insurance mandates. But that state law did not give Virginia the right to sue, the government said, adding that federal law supersedes state law. Moreover, it is individuals, not states, who are affected by the requirement, the motion states. Also, the mandate does not take effect until 2014, rendering such lawsuits premature, federal officials argued in both cases.

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, June 8th, 2010 at 7:30 am and is filed under Health Insurance. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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