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Almost immediately after the Supreme Court ruled in favour of President Barack Obama’s sweeping health care reform, opponents began attacking the law from new angles.The Supreme Court upheld the heart of the Affordable Care Act in June in a 5-4 vote.
But even though the individual insurance mandate — the most controversial part of the law — was upheld, opponents still have plenty of problems with Obamacare.
The Affordable Care Act is so unpopular with some it has an entire website dedicated to all of the lawsuits against it.
Here’s a look at some of the big challenges you can expect to see making headlines this year:
Congress’ ability to enact such a law in the first place
In its lawsuit, the conservative Pacific Legal Foundation is arguing that if Obamacare is a tax, as the Supreme Court ruled it is, then it’s unconstitutional. Tax bills must start in the House, but Obamacare started in the Senate, the group points out.
“Especially after the election of 2012, PLF is now on the front line in defending the rights of Americans against Obamacare’s violations of core constitutional principles,” PLF Principal Attorney Paul J. Beard II said in a November statement on the group’s website. “Our commitment is strengthened, and our fight goes on.”
But, that fight might be short-lived, the National Law Journal’s Marcia Coyle told PBS Newshour.
“Some court scholars see this lawsuit as a long shot because courts in the past have given Congress a lot of deference with legislation passed in a similar fashion,” she told Newshour.
Obamacare mandates that insurers cover contraception, testing for some STDs, as well as well-woman visits, The Houston Chronicle reported in July.
Those mandates have spawned at least 42 challenges claiming Obamacare infringes on employers’ religious beliefs, Coyle told Newshour.
While religious institutions such as churches and some hospitals are exempt from the requirement, for-profit companies aren’t entitled to the same exemption.
“The Department of Health and Human Services issued an interim rule in August 2011 that exempted certain organisations with religious objections to contraception,” Coyle told PBS. “A number of religious colleges and other employers sued, claiming the contraception mandate violates their deeply held religious beliefs.”
The Supreme Court last month refused to grant an emergency appeal filed by one of those employers, Hobby Lobby, an arts and crafts company with Christian owners.
However, Hobby Lobby and other companies with religious owners can continue pursuing their Obamacare challenges in the lower courts and ask the Supreme Court to hear the case at a later time.
The insurance exchanges
Under Obamacare, states are required to create “exchanges” so their citizens can buy subsidized health insurance on their own.
These exchanges have drawn the ire of quite a few states with conservative leaders, who have refused to implement the exchanges, The New Republic reported in November.
Anticipating this reluctance, Obamacare allows the federal government to step in and set up the exchanges itself for states that refuse to do so.
However, conservatives fighting Obamacare say the language of the law is a “little fuzzy” about whether the federal government can provide subsidies through those exchanges, TNR reported.
Back in September, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt filed a lawsuit fighting the Affordable Care Act, arguing the federal government would be exceeding its authority by trying to implement those subsidies, NPR reported at the time.
Lawyers for the U.S. government asked U.S. Eastern District Judge Ronald White last month to dismiss Pruitt’s lawsuit, saying the state presents only “abstract questions of political power.”
“Oklahoma’s reading of the Affordable Care Act presents only a ‘difference of opinion’ between the state and government, not a case or controversy,” the federal government’s motion to dismiss stated.
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