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Obama Lawyers Urge Court to Limit Scope of Health-Care Case

The Obama administration urged the U.S. Supreme Court to limit its review of the landmark health-care overhaul, saying the justices shouldn’t consider two of the issues raised by 26 states in their bid for a hearing.

In court papers filed yesterday, the Justice Department said the court should focus on the law’s requirement that Americans either acquire insurance or pay a penalty. Lower courts are divided on the constitutionality of the provision.

The states, led by Florida, are also challenging the 2010 law’s expansion of Medicaid, the joint federal-state health-care program for the poor. In addition, the states are seeking an exemption from the penalties that they and other employers would face for failing to offer adequate health insurance to workers.

U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli said in the latest court filing that those issues aren’t worthy of Supreme Court review.

Verrilli, the administration’s top courtroom advocate, said the high court should take up a third issue raised by the states: the impact that a decision striking down the mandate would have on the rest of the law. The Obama administration asked the high court last month to consider whether Congress had the constitutional authority to enact the mandate.

The administration filed its response two weeks ahead of the deadline. That clears the way for the court to say as soon as early November whether it will take up the case.

The states’ case is Florida v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 11-400.

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