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Health insurance quotes available while appeals are heard

We are reaching the next stage in the legal cases to decide whether Obamacare is constitutional. For those of you who have been sleeping through the debate, here’s a quick summary. The Democrats passed a law establishing a mandate. The people with the means to buy insurance to pay for their medical expenses must buy. Many children, retirees and the poor are excluded because they are eligible to receive subsidized care. To give people the chance to buy insurance, many rules have been amended, for example, insurers are now prohibited from refusing cover because of a pre-existing condition. The hope is the combination of the law and new regulations will bring millions more people into the ranks of the insured.

One of the “big” cases was heard by Judge Roger Vinson in Florida. He produced what can only be described as a dramatic decision, striking the whole of Obamacare down as unconstitutional. In many ways the Judge gave a political rather than a legal decision, describing the current situation as parallel to the Boston Tea Party revolt against the tax on tea imposed by the British. It’s a call to arms and, to ensure the maximum impact for his judgment, he put the appeal on fast track. The GOP wants the case to reach the Supreme Court as soon possible, hoping the Republican appointees will agree with Judge Vinson. Standing in their way is the Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit. Three judges, drawn by lot, are due to hear the case this June. Two of the three were appointed by President Clinton.

People usually point to the mandates for auto insurance, but this is different. You get a choice whether to drive. You don’t have a choice on whether you fall ill. The real argument comes down to this. When people have no insurance and cannot pay their hospital bills, the hospitals add the debts to their overheads and pass on the costs to the insurance companies as increased bills. If there’s still a shortfall, they get the taxpayer to contribute. So forcing people to buy insurance means lower premiums for the insured and less demand for taxpayers to contribute. Those who refuse to buy insurance will have to pay more tax. Either way, there must be more money available to pay for health care since the plan to clamp down on the rising cost of drugs was not included in the new law.

This appeal is bringing out the big guns. Paul Clement is representing the twenty-six states contesting the law. Equally high-profile Michael Carvin is representing the National Federation of Independent Business, while the government’s case is argued by Neal Katyal, the acting US Solicitor General. Yet for all this legal in-fighting, one fact is often overlooked. The law and regulations are in force. They are already changing the reality of health insurance on the ground as states move to create the insurance exchanges giving more people access to cheap health insurance. The states currently refusing to plan the exchanges run the risk of the federal government imposing a solution - assuming it wins the cases, of course. No matter who wins in Atlanta, it will move the cases against the mandate closer to the Supreme Court. We live in interesting times.


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