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The Takeaway: DOJ Asks Supreme Court to Weigh Health Care Law; Federal Pensions Face Major Shortfall

DOJ Asks Supreme Court to Put End to Health Reform Confusion: There's been a lot of 'will-they-or-won't-they' surrounding the U.S. Supreme Court and health care reform, after rulings in smaller federal courts have come down both for and against parts of the law. Now the U.S. Department of Justice is stepping in-specifically asking the high Court to rule on the constitutionality of the individual health insurance mandate (the requirement that most Americans buy health insurance by 2014 or face a tax penalty). The department's request comes in the wake of an Atlanta-based federal appeals court ruling against the individual mandate (the court said it went way beyond Congress' power to regulate interstate commerce), which contradicts two other appeals court rulings rejecting challenges to the law. DOJ lawyers say all this conflicting opinion makes it hard for the Congress and the Obama administration to address the "crisis in the national health care market."

When the Department of Justice asks you to pretty please hear a case, that's some serious impetus to do it. Besides which, 26 states and the National Federation of Independent Business have challenged the mandate as exceeding federal power and asked the justices to strike it down. The new filings "all but guarantee" the Supreme Court will review the law, experts say-and if they start holding oral arguments in early 2012, that could lead to a ruling smack dab in the middle of the 2012 presidential election season.

More Money, More Problems: Retirement plans for veterans, members of Congress and other federal employees cost the U.S. government almost as much as the Social Security system, a  USA Today analysis shows. And like Social Security, they now face a multitrillion-dollar shortfall. Unlike Social Security, however, there's no fund set up to pay for these costs-meaning they must be covered via taxes and borrowing each year. Last year, money paid to former government employees cost more than the $690 billion paid to Social Security recipients.

Thursday Quick Hits: One in four retirees feels life has gotten worse since they've stopped working ... study finds students' knowledge of civil rights history is really not so great (George Wallace was a CBS newsman, right?) ... Minneapolis, Cleveland, Boston and Pittsburgh top new list of best U.S. cities for retirees ... Tight blood-sugar control proves no help in fight against diabetes-related dementia ... And what you need to know about Listeria in fruit.

See "In the News" for more on current events, entertainment and how it all relates to you.

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