Top court names lawyers to argue healthcare case

WASHINGTON Fri Nov 18, 2011 5:05pm EST

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Supreme Court on Friday named an attorney to argue that challenges to President Barack Obama's healthcare insurance requirements must wait until after that part of the law has taken effect in 2014.

The high court also appointed a second attorney to argue that all other parts of the law can stand if the centerpiece provision - the requirement that all Americans buy insurance by 2014 or pay a penalty - is struck down.

The Supreme Court on Monday announced that it would hear arguments in March over Obama's sweeping healthcare overhaul law, with a ruling likely by July in the election year on the fate of his signature domestic achievement.

The court agreed to hear an Obama administration appeal defending the law and urging it be upheld and two separate appeals by 26 states and an independent business group challenging the law and urging it be struck down.

The court brought in two veteran Washington, D.C., attorneys, H. Bartow Farr III and Robert Long, to argue positions that none of the other parties were advocating.

Long, a partner at Covington & Burling, will argue that lawsuits challenging the insurance purchase requirement, a provision known as the individual mandate, are barred because the penalty has yet to be imposed.

At issue is a federal law called the Anti-Injunction Act and whether the challenges must wait until taxpayers actually begin paying the penalty for not purchasing insurance.

That position was adopted by a U.S. appeals court in Virginia and a dissenting U.S. appeals court judge in Washington.

Farr, a partner at Farr & Taranto, will argue that if government cannot require people to buy health insurance, all other provisions of the law can go into effect.

The Obama administration argued that it would be wrong to strike down all other provisions of the law, especially those unrelated to the mandate, such as the requirement that insurers provide coverage for young adults.

But it said two key provisions could not be separated from the mandate and would have to fall if it were struck down.

The two provisions bar insurers from refusing to issue coverage to a person because of a pre-existing medical condition, and bar insurers from charging higher premiums based on a person's medical history.

The states and the business group argued the rest of the law cannot survive if the insurance mandate is struck down.

Other issues to be argued will be whether Congress exceeded its powers in adopting the individual mandate and whether Congress improperly coerced the states to expand the Medicaid program that provides healthcare to the poor.

The Supreme Court cases are National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius, No. 11-393; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services v. Florida, No. 11-398; and Florida v. Department of Health and Human Services, No. 11-400.

(Editing by Eric Walsh)

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Comments (2)
Transaction7 wrote:
The Anti-Injunction Act (Johnson Act) applies to bar injunctions only against assessment and collection of taxes and tax penalties. The Obama administration and Congressional sponsors insisted that the penalty for not buying mandated insurance (yet to be defined, not by Congress, or priced) was not a tax or a tax penalty. Now the Dept. of Justice is arguing that it really was and is a tax (on not doing something).
If the individual mandate, which stretches the outer limits of federal power granted by the Constitution, already overstretched, beyond the breaking point where there can and will be no limits to the functions and powers of the federal government, contrary to the original intent, falls, the requirement that insurers cover people with pre-existing conditions and not discriminate would arguably become impossible, and, like now, those of us with small businesses who do not violate the Americans with Disabilities Act, or have disabilities ourselves, cannot buy meaningful health insurance from solvent companies for love or money.
The projected cost of the required insurance will be about half the average family income around here and most people will be unable to afford it and just get hit with this tax or fine or whatever it is, and be less able than before to afford either health insurance or health care.
I’ve read the ACA. There are a lot of things in it that are unconstitutional, and more that simply will not work, which should be, but are not being, challenged. The self-employed and those whose incomes fluctuate–more all the time, the disabled, those of us who do not live in the Democrat-controlled big cities, and us older folks–groups who tended to vote against Obama and the sponsors of this bill–will get hurt badly.

Nov 21, 2011 11:20am EST  --  Report as abuse
Transaction7 wrote:
The Anti-Injunction Act (Johnson Act) applies to bar injunctions only against assessment and collection of taxes and tax penalties. The Obama administration and Congressional sponsors insisted that the penalty for not buying mandated insurance (yet to be defined, not by Congress, or priced) was not a tax or a tax penalty. Now the Dept. of Justice is arguing that it really was and is a tax (on not doing something).
If the individual mandate, which stretches the outer limits of federal power granted by the Constitution, already overstretched, beyond the breaking point where there can and will be no limits to the functions and powers of the federal government, contrary to the original intent, falls, the requirement that insurers cover people with pre-existing conditions and not discriminate would arguably become impossible, and, like now, those of us with small businesses who do not violate the Americans with Disabilities Act, or have disabilities ourselves, cannot buy meaningful health insurance from solvent companies for love or money.
The projected cost of the required insurance will be about half the average family income around here and most people will be unable to afford it and just get hit with this tax or fine or whatever it is, and be less able than before to afford either health insurance or health care.
I’ve read the ACA. There are a lot of things in it that are unconstitutional, and more that simply will not work, which should be, but are not being, challenged. The self-employed and those whose incomes fluctuate–more all the time, the disabled, those of us who do not live in the Democrat-controlled big cities, and us older folks–groups who tended to vote against Obama and the sponsors of this bill–will get hurt badly.

Nov 21, 2011 11:20am EST  --  Report as abuse
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