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Supreme Court prepares to take on health care law

By Michael Doyle and David Lightman

McClatchy Newspapers

Published: Sunday, Nov. 13 2011 12:06 a.m. MST

The politically controversial mandate requires an individual to either purchase insurance or pay a fee.

"The (law) is without precedent both in its coercive impositions on the states and in its effort to force individuals to engage in commerce so that the federal government may regulate them," attorney Paul Clement wrote for Florida and the other states in their challenge to the law.

Formerly the Bush administration's highly regarded solicitor general, Clement is a good bet to be tapped as the lead attorney for the health care law's opponents. A final decision, though, will turn in part on exactly which petition is accepted. Some petitions, which are probably a long shot, call for the entire law to be struck down, while others focus on the individual mandate.

Almost any ruling is likely to trigger a fresh round of political warfare. Republicans want the mandate out. Democrats don't.

Democrats plan to stress the benefits already in place — 26 major provisions went into effect last year and 17 more have been implemented so far this year. Most insurers can no longer deny coverage to children because of pre-existing conditions and must allow dependent children up to age 26 to remain on parents' policies.

Democrats also have localized the health care issue. They have fact sheets describing how many children in a state are helped. Or how many community health centers would get funding under the law.

Odds are the court will give everyone plenty to debate.

In a sign of massively complex rulings to come, the 11th Circuit's judges needed 304 pages to spell out their decision. On Tuesday, in the most recent ruling, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals used only 103 pages to uphold the law.

"Since so much has already been written by our sister circuits about the issues presented by this case — which will almost surely be decided by the Supreme Court — we shall be sparing in adding to the production of paper," Judge Laurence Silberman wrote for D.C. Circuit.

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