Hill Awaits Landmark Supreme Court Ruling On Healthcare Law

–High Court Could Preserve Law, Kill It, Or Remove Key Features
–Budget Group Says Full Repeal Would Increase Short-Term Deficit
–Mostly Symbolic House Votes Likely This Summer On Health Care Law

By John Shaw

WASHINGTON (MNI) – House Speaker John Boehner and his GOP
leadership team said Wednesday that they are eagerly awaiting the
Supreme Court’s expected landmark ruling Thursday on the 2010 healthcare
law.

In his various public comments this week, Senate Majority Leader
Harry Reid has made a number of references to the coming healthcare
ruling, but has declined to speculate on what the ruling might be.

Supreme Court watchers say there are three broad options that the
Court is likely to follow: retain the law in its entirety, strike it
completely, or remove some parts of the law.

The focus of the legal challenge has been the individual mandate
which requires every person to have health insurance coverage.

Health experts have said this provision is the centerpiece of the
2010 law and provides the framework for other key provision such as one
that prevents insurance companies from charging sick people more for
health insurance and another that prevents insurance companies from
denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions.

During the Court’s hearing on the healthcare law in March,
Associate Justice Antonin Scalia made it clear that the Court’s ruling
will have a direct effect on Congress.

“There is no way that this court’s decision is not going to distort
the congressional process,” Scalia said.

“Whether we strike it all down or leave some of it in place, the
congressional process will never be the same. One way or another,
Congress is going to have to reconsider this and why isn’t it better to
have them reconsider it….in toto rather than having some things
already in the law which you have to eliminate before you can move on to
consider everything else on balance?” he said.

At his Wednesday briefing, Boehner said that he doesn’t know how
the Supreme Court will rule on the law, but said the “House will move to
repeal what is left of it.”

But congressional observers say this may be more of a sound bite
than a statement of long-term Republican policy.

At one of his first press conferences as House Majority Leader in
2011, Eric Cantor said he was eager to repeal the entire healthcare law.

A reporter then asked if this meant a subsidy the federal
government had just sent out to senior citizens to obtain healthcare
would have to be returned.

Cantor said repeatedly and emphatically that no benefits that had
been conferred under the law would be rescinded.

Any bills the House might pass to repeal the healthcare law this
summer or fall will almost certainly languish in the Senate, deferring
legislative action to the next Congress and the president in 2013.

Budget experts are uncertain about the fiscal consequences of
possible Supreme Court’s actions.

The Congressional Budget Office said last year that the healthcare
law would reduce budget deficits by $210 billion between 2012 and 2022.

In a blog last week, The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget
updated and slightly modified the CBO’s estimates and concluded that the
health care law would reduce budget deficits by $119 billion from 2013
to 2022.

The Concord Coalition’s weekly budget report argues that the
Supreme Court ruling is likely to have fiscal consequences and that
Congress must intensify efforts to control the growth of health care
spending.

“No matter how the high court rules, elected officials will need to
focus greater effort on reining in health care costs in the future. The
United States already spends far more on healthcare than other
industrialized countries, and many experts agree that much of this
spending is unnecessary or even counter-productive,” the report says.

“Rapid cost growth will put significant strain on the entire U.S.
economy and, together, with an aging population, is a key driver behind
the projections of unsustainable levels of federal debt,” it adds.

** MNI Washington Bureau: (202) 371-2121 **

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