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Health Care Reform: Next Stop Supreme Court?

August 25, 2011

COLUMBUS, Ohio - The U.S. Supreme Court could have the final say on health care reform, after recent contradictory decisions on the Affordable Care Act. One of the biggest sticking points is the individual responsibility provision, which requires that those who are uninsured buy health care coverage. The 6th Circuit Court out of Cincinnati ruled the provision constitutional, but recently the 11th Circuit appeals court, based in Atlanta, disagreed.

Kathleen Gmeiner, project director with Ohio Consumers for Health Coverage, explains the reasoning behind the insurance requirement.

"It's a two-fold thing. You get something that's very good - non-discrimination based on pre-existing condition - and then you've got to be responsible about it, which is say, 'Hey, if I'm going to have the advantage of that, I need to start paying in.'"

Those against the mandate argue it would open the door for lawmakers to regulate other types of activity. But supporters say the law is constitutional, citing Congress' broad authority to regulate interstate commerce.

Meanwhile, several other court cases on health care reform are awaiting appeals court decisions. Experts predict the issue over the individual responsibility requirement will need to be settled by the United States Supreme Court, which starts its next term in October.

Gmeiner says one good thing is the Atlanta court ruled the entire law should not be struck down, and implementation can continue.

"Most people are going to benefit in some way. It's really important that people not draw negative conclusions, when in fact there are really good things happening as a result of this act."

The Affordable Care Act will help all Americans, she stresses, including those with pre-existing conditions, those at high risk and young adults who need to stay on their parent's insurance plan.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH