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Do or Die for Obamacare?

Shimmy Blum

That’s up to the US Supreme Court to decide. Twenty-five states have already claimed that it is a coercive exercise of federal power and an untenable financial burden on them. Agreeing that a constitutional issue is at stake, Obamacare will finally have its date in the US Supreme Court in March. Depending how far the court goes with its ruling, the outcome may have a lasting impact on the nation’s healthcare system, the limits of power of the federal government, as well as Obama’s chances for reelection

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

By Supreme Court standards, this hearing will be one for the record books.

In agreeing to hear Florida v. HHS, a constitutional challenge to President Obama’s controversial health reform plan, the Supreme Court has allocated 5½ hours for oral arguments. Since 1970, only two Supreme Court cases have clocked even four hours of oral arguments; with the average case lasting one hour.        

Known formally as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), it is President Obama’s signature legislative achievement.

Obamacare is the country’s largest healthcare overhaul since the inception of Medicare and Medicaid in 1965. Its provisions, scheduled to be phased in through 2018, were designed to extend health coverage to the estimated 50-million Americans who have none and to increase coverage for Americans with preexisting conditions that insurance companies currently decline to cover.

While the goal may have been praiseworthy, the measure has proven to be unpopular on several counts. Politically, it has also become a signature battle between Democrats and Republicans over the role of government regulation in the lives of private citizens and whether Obamacare represents a move toward socialized medicine.

While several studies have been published related to the potential extra costs, or savings under Obamacare for the economy holistically, one of the issues the Supreme Court will rule on is the contention by the attorneys general of Florida and 25 other states that it is a coercive exercise of federal power. The states claim Obamacare dramatically reshapes their healthcare landscape, will burden them with heavy, long term costs and that states risk losing federal Medicaid funding for failure to comply with the law’s vast expansion of state Medicaid programs.

Eighteen states have passed legislation against certain Obamacare provisions. Voters in four states, most recently in Ohio, have approved symbolic measures to opt out of the law. Court battles over the law have been ongoing nationwide since it was signed into law in March 2010.

Last month, a Kaiser Family Foundation Health Tracking poll showed that 51 percent of Americans view the measure unfavorably versus 34 percent who view it favorably — the poll’s lowest favorable rating since the law was passed.


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