News

    US Supreme Court Grapples With Scope of Health Care Mandate

    In this courtroom illustration, U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli (R) speaks at the lectern to members of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, March 27, 2012
    In this courtroom illustration, U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli (R) speaks at the lectern to members of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, March 27, 2012

    America's top justices are considering what to do if they strike down the key provision of U.S. President Barack Obama's health care reform law.

    The U.S. Supreme Court held its third and final day of arguments Wednesday on the law, examining whether parts of it should survive if the court determines the so-called "individual mandate" is unconstitutional.

    The mandate requires Americans to purchase health insurance or face a financial penalty.  But during Wednesday's arguments, Chief Justice John Roberts noted that many of the provisions "have nothing to do" with the mandate.

    Conservative Justice Antonin Scalia said it was "totally unrealistic" to have the court go through all 2,700 pages of the legislation, saying "if you take the heart out of the statute, the statute is gone.''  Liberal Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan expressed skepticism that tossing out all of the provisions in the law was necessary.

    Key aspects and programs of the Affordable Care Act:

    • Adult children can remain on their parent’s insurance coverage through the age of 26.
    • An end to lifetime limits on the dollar value of benefits available to people with serious medical conditions.
    • Preventive healthcare benefits including free coverage for mammograms and birth control.
    • Medicare beneficiaries get a 50% discount on covered brand name drugs and 14% savings on generic drugs.
    • Insurance companies must justify unreasonably large healthcare premium increases.
    • Business with more than 200 employees must enroll their employees in health insurance programs or pay a penalty.
    • Businesses with 50 to 200 employees who work 30 hours or more a week must offer insurance or money to workers who want to get insurance elsewhere.
    • Businesses with less than 50 employees are exempt from coverage provisions.

    Who is Challenging the Law

    • Twenty-six U.S. states.
    • National Federation of Independent Business, an advocacy group for small business.
    • Several individuals.

    Supporters say the individual mandate is needed to spread the cost of health care among all Americans, especially healthy people who might otherwise not purchase insurance, to cover more than 30 million uninsured people.  But the 26 states challenging the law argue the requirement is an overreach of the federal government's constitutional powers.  They say the law should be repealed in its entirety if the insurance mandate is found to be unconstitutional.

    The Supreme Court's nine justices also spent time Wednesday listening to arguments on the law's expansion of the joint federal-state health insurance program for low-income Americans, known as Medicaid.

    The court is expected to issue its decision in June.

    The health care law is the most significant reform to the U.S. health care system in four decades.  It bars insurance companies from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions or placing a cap on the benefits available to those with serious medical conditions.  Many of the law's key provisions, including the individual mandate, do not take effect until 2014.

    The case comes before a divided bench made up of five justices appointed by Republican presidents and four appointed by Democrats.

    On Tuesday, the court's most conservative members, led by Justice Scalia, expressed doubt that the government can actually require people to purchase any type of product, including health insurance.

    But Scalia's liberal counterpart, Justice Stephen Breyer, said the issue shows there is a "national problem that involves money, cost and insurance."

    Both Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Anthony Kennedy also expressed concerns about the measure, but also seemed to acknowledge the need for the mandate in regulating the cost of health insurance.

    The case before the nation's highest court represents a historic legal and political showdown about the Affordable Care Act, President Obama's signature domestic policy.  Mr. Obama signed the bill into law two years ago despite objections by opposition Republicans.

    Americans express their views outside the Supreme Court:

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.