Obama healthcare battle appealed to Supreme Court

WASHINGTON Wed Jul 27, 2011 6:56pm EDT

President Barack Obama signs the health insurance reform bill in the East Room at the White House in Washington, March 23, 2010. REUTERS/Jim Young

President Barack Obama signs the health insurance reform bill in the East Room at the White House in Washington, March 23, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Jim Young

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A Michigan-based legal group on Wednesday asked the Supreme Court to review and overturn a decision that found President Barack Obama's signature healthcare law constitutional.

In the first of several appeals likely to reach the high court, the Thomas More Law Center said it asked the justices to review a U.S. appeals court ruling last month that Congress had the power to require that Americans buy health insurance.

The group argued in the appeal that Congress exceeded its power under the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution by requiring that Americans either obtain insurance or pay a fine by 2014. It urged the court to strike down that provision.

The appeal was the first challenge of the healthcare law to reach the Supreme Court under its normal procedures. In April, the justices rejected the state of Virginia's request to review the law before an appeals court had ruled.

At least two other appeals courts are considering challenges to the law, including one by Virginia and another by more than half the U.S. states. Once the appeals courts rule, those cases are likely to be appealed to the Supreme Court.

The law, which aims to provide medical coverage to more than 30 million uninsured Americans, has wide ramifications for the health sector, affecting health insurers, drugmakers, device companies and hospitals.

Legal experts have said they expect the Supreme Court to ultimately decide whether it is constitutional, most likely during its upcoming term that begins in October.

The Thomas More Law Center filed its lawsuit on March 23, 2010, the day that Obama signed the law. The lawsuit argued that Congress could not regulate how Americans paid for healthcare services and insurance.

The law is also likely to be a major issue during Obama's re-election campaign and congressional elections.

(Reporting by James Vicini, Editing by Paul Simao)

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