News Release: Faculty Experts, Law, Politics

Mar. 23,  2010

Health Care Reform: Political, Legal Experts Weigh In

Experts in politics, public policy, law and health care are available to discuss the long-term and short-term ramifications of the recently passed comprehensive health care reform bill that now provides near-universal medical coverage in the United States.

Alan Abamowitz: 10th Amendment Challenges Unlikely to Succeed

Challenging the constitutionality of the health care reform law via the 10th Amendment as some legislators have suggested isn't likely to succeed, says Emory political scientist Alan Abramowitz, a renowned expert on national politics and author of the forthcoming book, "The Disappearing Center: Engaged Citizens, Polarization and American Democracy."

"Since the New Deal, the courts have generally allowed Congress very broad latitude in enacting policies designed to regulate interstate commerce and promote the general welfare," says Abramowitz. 

"The 10th amendment has never been viewed as a serious limitation on the power of the federal government in these areas . . . Moreover, from a political standpoint, campaigning for repeal might prove politically dangerous given the immediate benefits that many Americans will receive from the law such as prescription drug assistance for seniors and extending the time that children can remain on the parents' health insurance plans."

Robert Schapiro: States Traditionally Challenge Federal Power

The current legal challenges to the sweeping healthcare legislation signed into law by President Barack Obama, "will not have any legal effect," says Emory University constitutional law expert Robert Schapiro.

"What will be interesting is to see if some states put their money where their mouth is and say that they will pay the tax that's due on people who don't buy health insurance," he says.

While Schapiro doesn't think legal challenges to the new healthcare law will succeed, "it's been a traditional role for the states over history to raise objections to federal legislation," he says.

While there are many examples of states strongly expressing their views in opposition to national law, says Schapiro, "what has been consistent since the founding is the notion that federal law trumps any inconsistent state law, and state law simply cannot interfere with the effect or enforcement of federal law."

Schapiro does think that the most constitutionally complicated parts of the legislation will eventually spur litigation, such as the tax that will be assessed against people who do not purchase health insurance. But that provision does not kick in for several years.

Schapiro, who teaches constitutional law at Emory University School of Law, is the author of "Polyphonic Federalism: Toward the Protection of Fundamental Rights."

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