Pa. Chamber of Business and Industry files amicus brief in national healthcare case

Jon Campisi Feb. 16, 2012, 3:03pm

The Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry has become the 15th organization of its kind nationwide to officially challenge President Obama’s national healthcare law.

The group announced in a news release Feb. 15 that it has joined 14 other chambers and business organizations from across the country in filing an amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court case challenging the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

“With so much uncertainty facing employers and their employees with regard to the implementation of the federal health-care law, it is absolutely necessary that the court rules on constitutionality as soon as possible,” Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry President Gene Barr said in a statement. “The amicus brief filed by the Pennsylvania Chamber and other similar organizations asks the court to do just that.”

Arguments in the healthcare challenge have been scheduled to take place before the nation’s highest court on March 26 to 28.

The case is U.S. Department of Health and Human Services et al v. the State of Florida et al.

Unless the healthcare law is struck down, it is scheduled to be implemented by 2014.

Various states’ attorney’s general have challenged the constitutionality of the law, specifically the individual mandate provision that provides for penalties in cases where people forgo health insurance.

The constitutional challenge questions whether or not the federal government has the authority to force consumers to buy a product offered by private industry.

The Obama administration has argued it has the authority to enact such a measure under the interstate commerce clause of the U.S.  Constitution.

Barr, of the Pennsylvania Chamber, said lingering questions over the law’s constitutionality led his organization to throw its support behind a challenge.

The confusion over its constitutionality, Bar said in his statement, is “adding to the confusion confronting employers surveyed about what will be required of them and what it will cost.”

The news release stated that the PA Chamber’s 2011 Pennsylvania Economic Survey showed that 88 percent of employers have reported being “somewhat” or “not at all” familiar with the provisions of the healthcare act.

Additionally, 55 percent of survey respondents listed controlling healthcare costs as a top legislative priority, marking the third straight year that more than 50 percent of employers reported the need to address rising health insurance costs as a top priority.

“Until the issue of constitutionality is decided and employers have a clear picture of the health-care landscape, they may be reluctant to add to their workforce,” Barr said in his statement. “The last thing our economy needs is another reason for private-sector employers to hold off on making hiring decisions, in this case because of ongoing questions of a major government policy change.”

The Chamber’s amicus brief contains two primary arguments, the news release states. First, that despite arguments to the contrary, the federal Anti-Injunction Act doesn’t bar the Supreme Court from ruling on the constitutionality of the individual mandate provision of the healthcare act, and second, that delaying a ruling will create a “costly and harmful burden on American business.”

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