Georgia Democrats join defense of health reform law

ATLANTA -- Georgia Democratic legislators from the House and Senate announced today they’ve joined 500 of their colleagues across the country in filing a brief in support of the federal health-reform law.

The federal law championed by President Barack Obama faces legal challenges over the constitutionality of requiring individuals to purchase health insurance if their employers or the government don’t provide it. Georgia is one of the states that initiated the challenge now awaiting a hearing before the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Georgia Democrats stood shoulder to shoulder on the Capitol steps before reporters to announce their participation in the friend-of-the-court brief filed Friday by the Center for Constitutional Law in support of the Obama administration.

“We are sending a strong message today by signing this amicus -- friend of the court -- brief that more than 500 legislators support the constitutionality of this law,” said Sen. Nan Orrock, D-Atlanta.

The provisions of the law are popular with the public and needed, said Rep. Gloria Frazier, D-Hephzibah.

For instance, allowing small businesses to deduct the expense of premiums from income on their tax returns has an economic benefit, she said.

“If we do not have healthy workers, we do not have money coming into the state,” she said. “This is good for small businesses’ bottom line.”

The U.S. Supreme Court set aside three days for oral arguments in late March. Decisions from the nation’s highest court usually come many months afterward.

But Rep. Pat Gardner, D-Atlanta, said Georgia’s legislature should move quickly to pass a bill to create a statewide insurance exchange, one of the federal law’s requirements.

“If we have not passed a bill this session and (health reform) is upheld, we’ll be at the back of the line for federal grants for setting up our health exchange,” she said. “So, it has consequences.”

Conservatives stalled consideration of a health-exchange bill in last year’s legislative session by arguing that it would give the appearance

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