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Legal, Legislative Battle Over Health Care Reform Continues

Appeals court judges hear arguments

Oral arguments were heard June 1 in the 6th Circuit in Cincinnati in a case from eastern Michigan, and the 3rd Circuit in Philadelphia just dismissed a case from New Jersey.

Oral arguments in federal appeals courts have been heard in two cases, both in Richmond, Va. The three randomly selected judges in Richmond turned out to be Democratic appointees, which may provide an advantage to the federal government attorneys. The three randomly selected judges in the 11th Circuit case are Chief Judge Joel Fredrick Dubina, appointed to the bench by President George H.W. Bush in 1990 and chief judge since 2009, and Frank M. Hull and Stanley Marcus — both appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1997, although Marcus is a Republican.

In documents filed in the Atlanta court, the Obama administration argues that the penalty for not buying insurance is a tax collected by the Internal Revenue Service, and that Congress has authority to levy taxes. The states argue that the mandate is "indefensible as an exercise of Congress's taxing power" because "the mandate is not a tax; it is a requirement that individuals engage in particular conduct."

In its brief, AARP argues that the new health care law particularly helps those 50 to 64 who lack employer-provided insurance and are denied it because of their age or preexisting conditions.

Stuart Cohen, AARP senior vice president for legal advocacy, said: "If the health care law was eliminated, our members and Americans 50-plus would lose important improvements that crack down on Medicare fraud, help seniors with high drug costs, make preventive care free of charge for more Americans and give people new options to plan for their long-term care needs.

"When everyone has health coverage, we can keep insurance companies from charging much higher rates simply because of a person's age or gender, denying coverage due to preexisting conditions, or dropping coverage when someone gets sick," he said.

Marsha Mercer is a writer in Northern Virginia who covers public policy issues.

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