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Supreme Court’s ‘ObamaCare’ ruling expected Thursday morning

Gov. PQuinn

Gov. Pat Quinn

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What should the U.S. Supreme Court do on the health care law?

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Updated: July 29, 2012 5:09PM

SPRINGFIELD — The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to hand down its historic decision Thursday on President Barack Obama’s signature legislation known as “ObamaCare,” with big ramifications for the presidential race and for Illinois regardless of how the high court rules.

In one of the court’s most important rulings in more than a decade, the justices are expected to make their opinion known at 9 a.m. on whether the health-care reform Congress passed for Obama in 2010 survives to see its complete implementation in 2014.

The decision carries a direct impact on the nearly 2 million Illinoisans without health insurance and figures to trigger a flurry of activity in Springfield if all or part of the health-care law gets torpedoed, as many court analysts have predicted.

This week, Gov. Pat Quinn has expressed hope the law will survive but Wednesday highlighted a particular piece that insurers be required to allow children to stay on their parents’ health-care plans into adulthood.

“I really believe in that provision to make sure parents can have health insurance for their children on their own policy up to the age of 26. A lot of young people don’t have health insurance, and one way to get it is to be on their parents’ health insurance policy,” Quinn told reporters after an event at Soldier Field. “It’s a very important reform that President Obama led the way to get enacted.”

The decision on the law — known as the Affordable Care Act — is expected to influence whether Obama wins a second term in November or is beaten by Mitt Romney, who along with Republicans in Congress called for the health-care law’s dismantling.

Opponents argue the law is overly broad, intrusive and ultimately unconstitutional. There are also questions about whether it will reduce costs and deliver better care without hurting businesses.

The Supreme Court had three possible paths with the law, which was enacted March 23, 2010. The justices could uphold it, strike it down or uphold it in parts. Observers watched one key part of the law — the mandate that individuals obtain health insurance by 2014 or pay a penalty — as a potential element vulnerable to being  struck down as unconstitutional.

Also at issue is the section expanding Medicaid by making more of the medically needy eligible for the federal/state program. That section could mean Cook County gets up to $70 million a year from the federal government for treating previously uninsured adults whose care had been subsidized by the county and state.

The sweeping law also bans health insurers from denying coverage to those with many pre-existing conditions, does away with lifetime caps on insurance payouts for those fighting chronic conditions and gives the elderly discounts on prescription drugs and free preventive services like colonoscopies.

State Sen. Bill Brady (R-Bloomington), who co-chaired a legislative panel studying the health-care law’s push to set up exchanges that would enable the uninsured to buy health care, said Wednesday he hopes the court tosses out the law entirely so the states can address health-care legislation on their own without the “heavy hand of the federal bureaucracy dictating this.”

“I think we’ve got a better opportunity if we have the ability to work as 50 different organizations — by that I mean states — to do what we think is the right thing for our people and our state,” Brady said. “Eventually, one model will probably find itself better and other states will adopt it.”

Brady, Quinn’s 2010 gubernatorial rival, said he wants to gauge Congress’ reaction and the reaction of the winner of the presidential campaign before embarking on a state health-care initiative of any sort.

But Democrats believe the court’s rejection of all or part of “ObamaCare” will enable states like Illinois to look to the health-care model Romney established in Massachusetts as a model.

“The state will end up having to maybe look at more creative ways to get at some of the issues that have been articulated in the national plan,” said state Sen. Dave Koehler (D-Peoria), who was a member of a 2007 state task force on affordable health care.

“If it’s illegal for the federal government to implement, we know the states have a little different status because Massachusetts has gone ahead and done an insurance mandate, and no one questioned that,” Koehler said. “It’s a question of what rights do the states have that the federal government doesn’t have. That’ll be a whole question here.” 

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