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The Week Ahead: Health care reform’s day in court

By Tom Hudson, McClatchy Newspapers –

It’s not often nine people decide the fate of almost 20 percent of the economy.

When parts of the Affordable Care Act come before the U.S. Supreme Court this week, the justices could decide the direction of an enormous industry that holds both huge potential for jobs but also big risks of ever-escalating costs.

It has been two years since President Barack Obama signed his massive health care bill into law. Among the provisions that will be argued in front of the Court is the mandate for every American to have health insurance by 2014 and the requirement of states to expand their Medicaid coverage to more Americans or lose federal dollars that help pay for health care for the poor.

While the justices deliberate in the next several months, health care costs show few signs of slowing. Health spending has jumped 10-fold in the past 30 years. And spending continues growing faster than our incomes. Almost 20 cents of every dollar in national income goes toward our health.

Meantime, 10 of the top 20 fastest-growing job fields are in health care. Despite the overall job destruction from the Great Recession, the last time the health care industry lost jobs was for one month in the summer of 2003.

Of course, any ruling coming from the Supreme Court is not a trade-off between job growth and higher costs. But more than the fate of the law is at stake.

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