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On health-care law decision, Obama makes political argument

The president expressed faux puzzlement today over his Republican opponents’ attacks over last year’s health-care law. When asked at a town hall in Cannon Falls, MN, today about what his plan would be if the Supreme Court were to find the individual mandate provision of the law unconstitutional, the president started off by attempting to reassure supporters. 

“Essentially, patient rights that were in the bill, all those things are going to be there," he said. "So no lifetime caps and no fine print.” The president continued, “All that stuff is going to be in place.”

He then explained how requiring insurance companies to insure those with pre-existing conditions only works if the mandate is left intact.

“If an insurance company has to take you," he said," has to insure you, even if you’re sick, but you don’t have an individual mandate, then what would everybody do? They would wait until they get sick and then you’d buy health insurance. Everybody here at some point or another is going to need medical care, and you can’t be a free-rider on everybody else -- you can’t not have health insurance, then go to the emergency room and each of us who’ve done the responsible thing and have health insurance, suddenly we now have to pay the premiums for you. That’s not fair.”

And while the president didn’t really address constitutional concerns in his answer, he did use the opportunity to remind people that he wasn’t the first person in the presidential race to put an individual mandate on the books.

“This should not be controversial," he said. "Let me just say this: You’ve got a governor who’s running for president right now who instituted the exact same thing in Massachusetts -- this used to be a Republican idea, by the way, this whole idea of the individual mandate, and suddenly…it’s like, they've got amnesia. It’s like, 'Oh, this is terrible; this is going to take away freedom for Americans all over the world, all over the country. So that’s a little puzzling.”

Last week the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the individual mandate in the health-care law as unconstitutional, but left the rest of the law intact -- 26 states were named as plaintiffs in the case that will almost assuredly go to the Supreme Court. There have now been two cases decided at the appeals level -- one in favor of the administration, one against.