Obama Administration Equates Medicaid Expansion With 'Liberty'

By Susan Jones | March 29, 2012 | 7:02 AM EDT

Supporters and opponents of health care reform rally in front of the Supreme Court in Washington, Tuesday, March 27, 2012, as the court continued arguments on the health care law signed by President Barack Obama. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

(CNSNews.com) - "There is an important connection -- a profound connection" -- between people who can't afford health insurance and liberty, the Obama administration told the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday.

But the attorney for the 26 states that are challenging the Democrats' health care law said "it's a very funny conception of liberty that forces somebody" to buy health insurance.

In his concluding appeal to the court, U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, Jr. told the justices that Obamacare's expansion of Medicaid will allow millions of people with chronic conditions such as diabetes and heart disease to "be unshackled from the disabilities that those diseases put on them and have the opportunity to enjoy the blessings of liberty.

"And the same thing will be true for a husband whose wife is diagnosed with breast cancer and who won't face the prospect of being forced into bankruptcy to try to get care for his wife and face the risk of having to raise his children alone. And I could multiply example after example after example," Verrilli said.

"In a very fundamental way, this Medicaid expansion, as well as the provisions (individual mandate) we discussed yesterday, secure of the blessings of liberty. And I think that that is important, as the Court is considering these issues, that that be kept in mind.

"The Congress struggled with the issue of how to deal with this profound problem of 40 million people without health care for many years, and it made a judgment, and its judgment is one that is, I think, in conformity with lots of experts’ thought, was the best complex of options to handle this problem."

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Verrilli said if the American people think the health care law should be changed, "They can change it."  He then urged the Supreme Court to uphold the Affordable Care Act "in its entirety."

In rebuttal, attorney Paul Clement, representing the 26 states, took issue with Verrilli's comments about the "blessings of liberty."

"I would respectfully suggest that it's a very funny conception of liberty that forces somebody to purchase an insurance policy whether they want it or not.

“And it's a very strange conception of federalism that says that we can simply give the States an offer that they can't refuse, and through the spending power -- which is premised on the notion that Congress can do more because it's voluntary -- we can force the States to do whatever we tell them to. That is a direct threat to our federalism,” Clement said.

Clement argues that both the Medicaid expansion and the individual mandate exceed the limits of federal power.

The case -- one of the most important in recent memory -- was officially submitted to the justices at 2:24 p.m.

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