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After two years, Obamacare remains divisive - SCOTUS pondering 'individual mandate'

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

"I'm optimistic, but I'm not popping the champagne corks just yet," said United States Senator John Cornyn during a conference call with reporters across the Lone Star State on Wednesday, March 28.

He was responding to a question about whether the healthcare debate going as expected. Last week, the United States Supreme Court's heard an appeal of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act - aka Obamacare.

Twenty-seven states, including Texas, have challenge the constitutionality of Obamacare and oral arguments before the United States Supreme Court were held Monday to Wednesday, March 26, 27 and 28.

"I left the courtroom yesterday convinced that I had witnessed a watershed moment for the Republic," Cornyn continued. During Tuesday's proceedings, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy queried Solicitor General Donald Verrilli about the federal government's power to mandate that people purchase products, in this case healthcare insurance, in the marketplace.

"What limits would there ever be on federal action on the Commerce Clause of the US Constitution if the mandate to purchase health insurance is upheld?" Cornyn asked. "Essentially, there would be no limits to the extension of federal powers."

The month of March marked - without much fanfare - the two-year anniversary of the enactment of President Barack Obama's healthcare law. The centerpiece of his administration includes a controversial individual mandate requiring all Americans to purchase health insurance from a private company - regardless of whether they want to or not.

Two weeks ago, the US House Republicans voted to repeal another provision of Obamacare and replace the law with proven lawsuit abuse reforms that are known to reduce health care costs.

The PATH Act repeals the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), a panel of 15 federal employees created by Obamacare who can make major cuts to Medicare that are likely to restrict seniors' access to treatment and services. The act passed by a bipartisan vote of 223-181.

Republicans have voted 26 times to fully repeal, defund or dismantle portions of the health care law.

"Two years later and the president's health care law is twice as bad as we first thought," said US Congressman Lamar Smith. "The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) recently announced that Obamacare will cost almost double its original $900 billion price tag. The president's policies have failed, and his health care law is making the economy worse,"
Smith vowed that House Republicans would continue their efforts to repeal what many perceive as the administration's government takeover of health care and replace it with commonsense reforms that lower costs and increase access.

"We passed the PATH Act to repeal the IPAB and ensure that decisions about medical care are made by patients and their doctors rather than a panel of unelected and unaccountable government officials," Smith continued. "The legislation also includes meaningful malpractice reforms to address frivolous lawsuits that amount to legalized extortion of doctors and hospitals."

According to Smith, medical liability reforms in the PATH Act save American taxpayers money. The CBO estimates that reforms included in this legislation will reduce the federal budget deficit by more than $45 billion over the next 10 years.

"Despite roadblocks in the Democrat-controlled Senate, Republicans remain committed to repealing Obamacare and replacing the President's takeover of health care with common-sense solutions that curb costs, expand access to care, and eliminate unfair and unconstitutional mandates and penalties," Smith concluded.

In an earlier press release, Cornyn had discussed the House's passage of the PATH Act. He said, "The bipartisan vote is in direct response to the millions of Americans who have pleaded with Washington to stay out of their health care decisions, and repealing this panel of unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats is a step in the right direction."
Cornyn continued, "Beneficiaries have paid their hard-earned money into Medicare for years and it should be these same beneficiaries, their families, and doctors who determine the health care that is right for them."

Additionally, Cornyn recently re-introduced his companion bill in the Senate, which is fully paid for and would also repeal the unelected IPAB.

Many sources contend that if the Supreme Court strikes down the individual mandate, the rest of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act would topple like a line of dominoes. "It's impossible to know where the court will come down on all the issues, but the words of Justice Kennedy were encouraging. He will be the swing vote," Cornyn said.

He added, "The Founding Fathers didn't create a government with all command and control in Washington, DC. Allowing the individual mandate to stand would totally transform the relationship between citizens and the federal government. There would no longer be a principled basis for limiting the federal government's role in the lives of its citizens."

The US Supreme Court is expected to hand down its decision in June.