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.
Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Interneti
X
Mike O'Sullivan
June 30, 2015 8:20 PM
Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Syrians Flee IS Advance in Hasaka

The Syrian government said Monday it has taken back one of several districts in Hasaka overrun by Islamic State militants. But continued fighting elsewhere in the northern city has forced thousands of civilians from their homes. In this report narrated by Bill Rodgers, VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer describes the scene in Amouda, where some of the displaced are taking refuge.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video S. Korea Christians Protest Gay Rights Festival

The U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating marriage equality nationwide has energized gay rights supporters around the world. Gay rights remain a highly contentious issue in a key U.S. ally, South Korea, where police did a deft job Sunday of preventing potential clashes between Christian protesters and gay activists. Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.
Video

Video In Syrian Crisis, Social Media Offer Small Comforts

Za’atari, a makeshift city in Jordan, may be the only Syrian refugee camp to tweet its activities, in an effort to keep donors motivated as the war in Syria intensifies and the humanitarian crisis deepens. Inside the camp, families say mobile phone applications help hold together families that are physically torn apart. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.

VOA Blogs