White House to Supreme Court: Back Off Health Reform Fight

The Obama Administration wants the US Supreme Court to stay out of the constitutional fight over the national health care reform law for the time being.  This would give appeals courts around the country time to weigh in on the challenges.

The reform law faces constitutional attacks in four appellate courts. The challenges center on the mandate for Americans to buy health insurance.

Papers filed with the high court  by the White House ask the justices to reject the state of Virginia’s request that the high court trump appellate review now.  The administration argues federal appeals courts should have time to examine the constitutional claims.

Congress enacted the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to address the growing crisis in health care services, which account for 17 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product, according to the administration.

Millions of people without health insurance use health care services but cannot fully pay, shifting the costs to health care providers in the national market, who in turn pass it on to private insurers.  And that resultss in higher private rates. The uncompensated cost shift totaled $43 billion in 2008, according to the administration.

Legal Challenges
The new law mandates that nearly all Americans purchase health insurance by 2014. The Virginia General Assembly passed a law late last year that its residents do not need to comply with the act. Virginia then asked the federal courts to declare its statute valid. It argues that Congress overstepped its constitutional powers by imposing mandatory insurance purchases.

The district judge agreed and declared that portion of the health reform law unconstitutional. That decision was appealed to the Fourth Circuit in Richmond, Va., which plans to hear arguments on  May 10.

But Virginia said it Feburayr it wants to leap frog the appeals court and go straight to the US Supreme Court to get the issue resolved. The US Supreme Court rarely takes such drastic steps, relying instead on the appeals courts around the country to flesh out the legal issues first. 

The Obama Administration argued, that given the Fourth Circuit’s plan to hear the appeal in about 60 days “there is no basis for short-circuiting the normal course of appellate review.”

Virginia will have an opportunity to respond to the latest Administration arguments before the US Supreme Court decides whether to take up the issue or wait.

Case:  Virginia v. Sebelius, No. 10-1014

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