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March 6, 2012 > Uphold health care reform

Uphold health care reform

Submitted By the Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General Kamala D. Harris led 10 states in filing a friend-of-the-court brief in the U.S. Supreme Court, on January 27, 2012, urging the high court not to invalidate the federal health care reform law in its entirety if that court decides the minimum coverage provision is unconstitutional.

"States have begun to implement substantial portions of the Act, such as prohibiting insurance companies from denying coverage to children with pre-existing conditions, allowing States to better regulate insurance rates and helping States establish high-risk pools for their citizens. Today, these reforms are bringing real relief to States, medical providers and families across the country. The reforms are also helping all States grapple with the serious problem of the high number of uninsured citizens. While the minimum coverage provision unquestionably advances the Congressional goal of comprehensive health care reform in general and private health insurance reform in particular, the minimum coverage provision operates independently of the vast majority of the Affordable Care Act," the amicus brief states.

In August 2011, a divided United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit ruled that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act's minimum coverage provision, which in 2014 will require that adults maintain adequate health insurance, is unconstitutional. The United States government appealed that decision to the U.S. Supreme Court which will hear oral arguments in the matter in March 2012.

Harris, joined by 10 other attorneys general, argued in a brief filed today in the U.S. Supreme Court that the minimum coverage provision is constitutional. If, however, the court decides the minimum coverage provision is unconstitutional, the remainder of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, including measures that have already been implemented, should remain intact.

Since March 2010, when the landmark federal healthcare law was enacted, Californians have benefitted from numerous reforms that have lowered costs and increased health care options. For example, insurance companies can no longer deny coverage to the state's 2.2 million children with pre-existing conditions. As a result of the federal reform, most young people in California can remain on their parent's insurance until their 26th birthday.

California was one of the first states to begin covering low-income adults, ages 19 to 64, who do not qualify for Medi-Cal. As of October 2011, more than 220,000 Californians were covered through the program which also provides funds for hospital care and public health initiatives.

California has also received millions in grant funds, including $42.7M to create a new fund to prevent illness and promote health.

"This important reform is comprehensive and wide-reaching across the healthcare industry. It does everything from encourage Americans to enter the nursing profession to improve the quality of care for Medicare beneficiaries," Harris said. "Its real and lasting benefits have already taken effect in California and are making meaningful differences in the lives of millions of individuals."

Other states joining California in this brief are Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, New Mexico, New York, Oregon and Vermont. The brief is also joined by the District of Columbia and the Governor of Washington.

Harris has vigorously defended the constitutionality of federal health care reform. Joined by other attorneys general, she has filed two briefs in the U.S. Supreme Court and five briefs in the federal appellate courts urging the courts to uphold the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

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