Obama Won’t Seek Hearing on Health Law, Setting Stage for High Court Case

The Obama administration set the stage for possible U.S. Supreme Court consideration of its landmark health-care law, saying it will forgo further review before a federal appeals court that declared part of the law invalid.

The Justice Department had until today to seek a new hearing before a larger panel of judges at the Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The government won’t take that step, said Tracy Schmaler, a Justice Department spokeswoman. She declined to say whether the government would file a Supreme Court appeal.

Seeking a new appeals court hearing may have pushed Supreme Court involvement beyond its 2011-12 term and next year’s presidential election.

The 11th Circuit concluded that Congress went beyond its constitutional powers by requiring Americans to either acquire insurance or pay a penalty. Twenty-six states are challenging the measure in that case.

The 11th Circuit is one of three appellate courts since June to have ruled on the law, which would expand coverage to a projected 32 million Americans who lack health insurance. A different appeals court, the Cincinnati-based 6th Circuit, upheld the law, while a third, the Richmond, Virginia-based 4th Circuit, said courts don’t yet have jurisdiction to get involved.

The challengers in the 6th Circuit case have already filed a Supreme Court appeal, and the justices may act next month in that case.

To contact the reporters on this story: Greg Stohr in Washington at gstohr@bloomberg.net; Seth Stern in Washington at sstern14@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva at msilva34@bloomberg.net

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