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Court's Verdict on Health-Care Reform Holds Surprises, Legal Experts Say
Date:6/28/2012

By Lisa Esposito
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, June 28 (HealthDay News) -- After the U.S. Supreme Court's announcement Thursday that it would uphold most of the 2010 Affordable Care Act, many legal experts were quick to register their surprise at the decision -- and their sense that perhaps the battle over health-care reform was not yet finished.

The complicated 5-to-4 decision allows the law to proceed with its goal of covering more than 30 million uninsured Americans. That includes the controversial "individual mandate" provision, which requires most consumers to buy health care insurance or face a penalty. The court held that the mandate fell under the category of a tax, and as such was constitutional and could stand.

That came as a surprise to Stephen Presser, a professor of legal history at Northwestern University School of Law in Chicago. He had predicted that the Supreme Court would find the health-reform law unconstitutional and the whole package would go down.

"I had thought that the issue of whether [the individual mandate] was a tax was over and done with," Presser said. "This strikes me as a disappointing decision, which fails fully to preserve the limitations on the Constitution of the federal government," he added.

"It's disappointing that all the proponents of the Act had steadfastly said that this was not a tax. That this was not a bill to raise revenues, that this was not a bill to increase health care costs. Had it acknowledged that it was in fact a tax, it's much more doubtful that it would have passed, given the thin margin that it did pass by, it may have made a difference. So what the court has done is salvaged the Act in a Constitutional sleight of hand," Presser said.

But Renee Landers, a professor of law at Suffolk University Law School, had betted on the other side -- that the mandate could still survive -- and today's decision justified her confidence.

"It was hard t
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