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Civil Rights Groups File Supreme Court Brief

Support the Constitutionality of Health Care Reform

 Washington, D.C. –– On Friday, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund,  The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, and the American Civil Liberties Union filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court arguing that the minimum coverage provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is clearly constitutional and, in fact, advances equal opportunity and liberty for millions of disadvantaged Americans. 
 
The brief states that Congress acted within its constitutional authority under the Commerce and Necessary and Proper clauses. “Congress acted well within its constitutional authority in addressing inequalities in our health care system that disproportionately affect disadvantaged populations,” said Steven R. Shapiro, legal director of the ACLU. “Health care is an enormous part of our national economy and the power of Congress to regulate that economy has been well-settled since the New Deal.” As the brief states:
 
Congress acted well within its constitutional authority in seeking to regulate “economic and financial decisions about how and when health care is paid for, and when health insurance is purchased” in order to prevent the severe economic and social upheaval that occurs  when significant portions of the national population are uninsured. (p. 4)
 
The groups also point out how the inability to obtain access to health care actually limits the personal liberty of people – including people of color, women, seniors, and people with disabilities -- to simply live healthy and full lives.  By correcting the staggering disparities in access to health care, thus decreasing illness and mortality rates for disadvantaged communities, the law enhances the ability of  millions of Americans to work, take care of their families, and engage in civic life, thereby advancing equal opportunity and personal liberty. 
 
“We wanted to show how hollow arguments against expanding health care coverage are,” said Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. “Health care reform expands liberty for the millions of disadvantaged Americans who are subject to the human costs of being on the wrong side of health insurance disparities.” As the brief states:
 
Across the country, uninsured persons experience significant hardship that has a profound cumulative impact on our nation. Because they are less likely to obtain adequate, stable health care, the uninsured suffer many lost opportunities, which depresses both the quality and the longevity of their lives…For many individuals, being uninsured is not a choice, but rather is a consequence that is imposed on them  due to circumstances largely beyond their control.” (p .5)
 
John A. Payton, president and director-counsel for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund summed up the arguments presented by the groups in the following way: "By advancing both equality and liberty, the Affordable Care Act promotes not only the health of individuals but also the health of our nation."
 
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