- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 28, 2011

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Justice Department is joining calls by states and a business group for prompt Supreme Court review of President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul.

The department says it will file its appeal with the high court later Wednesday asking the justices to uphold the constitutionality of the law and throw out a federal appeals court ruling that struck down a key provision.

The word from Justice is the Obama administration’s first indication that it wants an up-or-down ruling before the 2012 presidential election on the law that aims to extend insurance coverage to more than 30 million Americans.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

States and a business group opposed to President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul asked the Supreme Court on Wednesday for a speedy ruling that puts an end to the law aimed at extending insurance coverage to more than 30 million people.

The high court should strike down the entire law, not just the main requirement that individuals purchase insurance or pay a penalty beginning in 2014, their appeals said.

The filings, on behalf of 26 states and the National Federation of Independent Business, also said the justices should act before the 2012 presidential election because of uncertainty over costs and requirements.

On the issue of timing, their cause got an unexpected boost from retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, who said voters would be better off if they knew the law’s fate law before casting their ballots next year.

The 91-year-old Stevens said in an Associated Press interview that the justices would not shy away from deciding the case in the middle of a presidential campaign and would be doing the country a service. “It would be better to have that known about than be speculated as a part of the political argument,” Stevens said in his Supreme Court office overlooking the Capitol.

The appeals seek to overturn a portion of the ruling by the federal appeals court in Atlanta that struck down the individual insurance requirement.

That court upheld the rest of the law, which the states and the business group say would impose huge new costs.

The law would extend coverage mainly through subsidies to purchase private insurance and an expansion of Medicaid. The states object to the Medicaid expansion and a provision forcing them to cover their employees’ health care at a level set by the government.

The filings came on the same day that the Obama administration’s response was due at the Supreme Court in a different challenge to the same law. In that case, the federal appeals court in Cincinnati upheld the law.

The individual insurance mandate “indisputably served as the centerpiece of the delicate compromise that produced” the law, according to the states, with Florida taking the lead.

The administration said in the Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that reforms in the insurance market, including requiring insurers to cover people without regard for pre-existing health conditions, would not work without the mandate.

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