A raft of health charities and patient-advocacy groups have filed briefs urging the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold the new health-care overhaul law, which has been challenged as unconstitutional for requiring most Americans to buy health insurance or face a penalty.
The groups told the court, which is set to hear oral arguments on the case in March, that the health-insurance provision, known as the “individual mandate,” is critical to making the new law work effectively.
“Without that requirement, healthy people tend to avoid buying insurance until they need it, leaving insurance plans to cover a sicker population and driving up costs for everyone in the health care system,” said the American Cancer Society, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, the American Diabetes Association, and American Heart Association, which filed a “friend of the court” brief last week.
They said the new law will bring many advantages to patients with chronic diseases by guaranteeing health coverage to people with pre-existing conditions, prohibiting insurance companies from charging more for people with health problems, and introducing measures to help low-income people afford coverage.
In a separate brief, the American Association of People with Disabilities, the March of Dimes Foundation, the National Organization for Rare Diseases, and 11 other patient-advocacy groups said that some states have required insurers to cover individuals with pre-existing conditions without the individual mandate, and the results were “disastrous.”
The insurers, they said, increased premium rates and in some cases stopped offering individual health plans.
A U.S. appeals court ruled in August that Congress overstepped its authority by requiring individuals to “enter into contracts with private insurance companies for the purchase of an expensive product from the time they are born until the time they die.”
But the California Endowment, a health grant maker, filed a brief arguing that without that requirement, nearly 1.4 million Californians would remain uninsured. That would affect insurance companies and health-care providers—for example prompting people to seek care in emergency rooms without having the means to pay, it said.
Thus, it argues, Congress has the authority to impose the individual mandate under its constitutional right to regulate interstate commerce.