California attorney general defends Obama's healthcare overhaul
With the U.S. Supreme Court set to decide the fate of President Obama’s sweeping healthcare law, California Atty. Gen. General Kamala Harris is putting the Golden State's weight behind the White House.
On Friday, Harris joined a dozen other attorneys general in filing a brief with the high court supporting the new law and its requirement that all Americans have basic health insurance by 2014. In March, justices will hear oral arguments on constitutional challenges to the entire law brought by top Republican officials from 26 states, who contend that the Democratic-controlled Congress overstepped its authority in passing the measure.
Harris' brief urges the Supreme Court to uphold the law that Republicans derisively refer to as "Obamacare."
"Though state governments and private actors have taken important and innovative steps to expand access to health care and to restrain the growth of health care costs, no remedy can be fully effective without action on a national level," the brief said. "The Commerce Clause empowers Congress to take such action, and Congress properly employed that power in addressing the nation's health care crisis through the reforms enacted in the Affordable Care Act."
The Republican governors and state attorneys who challenged the law argued that the power to regulate commerce does not extend to requiring unwilling buyers to purchase insurance. They also allege that the law’s expansion of Medicaid will force the states to take on extra burdens.
Harris said the new law was needed to deal with one of the fastest-growing segments of federal and state budgets. In 2008, she said, the uninsured cost hospitals, insurers and taxpayers $43 billion nationally.
"Federal health care reform is not only essential to improving access to quality health care in California, it also is central to the long-term health of our economy, as well as state and local budgets," she said.
-- Michael J. Mishak in Sacramento
Photo: Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris. Credit: Paul Sakuma /Associated Press