California adds its two cents to health care law debate, submitting arguments to Supreme Court

The U.S. Supreme Court Building is seen in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 25.
The U.S. Supreme Court Building is seen in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 25.
J. Scott Applewhite/AP

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Starting Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court hears three days of oral arguments on the health care reform law. California’s interests will be represented.

California joined nearly a dozen other states, telling the High Court that their interests are best served by enforcing the health care law in its entirety. But, if the justices throw out the individual mandate requiring everyone to have insurance or pay a penalty, California is asking the Court to keep the rest of the law intact.

Deputy State Attorney General Dan Powell says California has passed its own laws with some of the same provisions, like prohibiting insurance companies from denying coverage to children with pre-existing conditions. He says those laws may be in jeopardy if the health care law is struck down.

"The legal landscape would be very confused about which of those laws would survive at the state level and which wouldn’t," Powell says.

California is also counting on the federal money promised in the health care law to pay for the additional low-income people who qualify for Medi-Cal.

Deputy Attorney General Powell says the federal government promises to pick up most of the cost. He says enrollment is expected to increase by about 27 percent, "but the cost to the state is only expected to increase by 1.4 percent. So you get a lot of extra people insured at very low cost to the state." He added that it's a huge benefit for California.

The state could add half a million new Medi-Cal patients by the end of this year, but Powell says that money could disappear if the Supreme Court rules the health care law is unconstitutional.