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California braces for Supreme Court healthcare ruling

June 19, 2012 | 11:31 am

Healthcare

As the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to hand down its ruling on the federal healthcare law championed by President Obama, advocates in California are bracing for the worst, and hoping that California might be able to forge its own path if the law is overturned.

“Nearly 500,000 people [in California] would lose health insurance if the entire law is struck down,” said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, which advocates for expanded health coverage, in a conference call with reporters Tuesday. “It would be a radical and destabilizing step for our judiciary.”

The fate of future health coverage for many of the estimated 46 million Americans without insurance hangs in the balance. The linchpin of the law, and the provision coming under the greatest attack, is the so-called individual mandate, which requires most Americans to purchase some kind of health insurance or suffer tax penalties.

In exchange for the new requirement, insurance companies will no longer be able to turn down coverage for those who have preexisting medical conditions.

“If they just strike the mandate and nothing else, we believe California can go full-speed ahead in implementing the law,” Wright said. “California could craft its own version or alternative.”

A similar mandate was the centerpiece of a healthcare bill championed by Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Democratic Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez in 2008. That bill died in the state Senate amid opposition from both liberal Democrats and Republicans.

Wright says that if the law is upheld, “90 to 95 percent” of all Californians will have health coverage.

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-- Anthony York in Sacramento

Photo: Dr. Juan Pena examines 5-month-old Erick Madrigal. Credit: Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times

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