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How Will the Supreme Court Decide Cases Concerning the Health Care Law?

For certain there will be challenges concerning the enactment of Health Care Reform nicknamed “Obama Care”.  The New York Times article for December 28, 2010 (“Terrain Shifts in Challenges to the Health Care Law” by Kevin Sack) speaks to the “framers’ most nettlesome grant of power which gives Congress treacherously broad authority to pass laws ‘necessary and proper’ to carry out its assigned responsibilites.”

The expectation of proposed cases centers on an important point: whether the Constitution which grants Congress this expansive power to regulate interstate commerce can be applied requiring citizens to buy health insurance.  Can the phrase “necessary and proper” be deduced as the original intention of the framers over 200 years ago and applied in these health care cases?

Article I, Section 8 states, “…To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;…To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States or in any Department or Officer thereof.” (End of Section 8.)

Reading further from Kevin Sack’s article, the anti-Federalists saw the potential for this clause to give “sweeping power” to the Congress–the national government–instead of leaving more power in the states’  hands.  “And the Supreme Court has struggled since to define its limits, in decisions from McCulloch v. Maryland in 1819 to United States v. Comstock last May [2010]”, per Sack.

The courts have never had to address the issue of Americans somehow being penalized for NOT buying something. Proponents and opponents alike have gleaned information and direction from the recent High Court guidance. Probably two years from now, after all rulings are in from the Federal District Courts, the Supreme Court will have the final say.  So far, two Federal District Court judges have upheld the insurance mandate, one has not, but did not block it pending appeal, and a fourth judge is expected to rule this year, 2011.

So what does this mean to the American public?

The Obama Administration, through the Justice Department, argues that the insurance requirement is constitutional under the commerce clause, citing precedents. Furthermore, if a citizen does not obtain health insurance it is a decision to make others pay for their health care costs–governments, hospitals and those who are paying for themselves.  Americans pay for the uninsured now when those persons seek care from hospital emergency rooms for non-emergency conditions as well as emergency conditions. Also, under the new health care law, insurance companies will not be able to discriminate against an individual for his or her pre-existing conditions.  There will be more issues to be litigated, to be sure.

This is an important legal effort which affects all Americans.  Stay tuned and be informed!  Read all you can!

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