Final Supreme Court
Debate Over Landmark US Health Care Law
March 28, 2012
The U.S. Supreme Court opened a third and final day of hearings
Wednesday on President Barack Obama's health care reform law.
Wednesday's arguments were examining whether the law should survive if a
key provision is ruled unconstitutional.
That provision is the so-called “individual mandate,” requiring
Americans to purchase health insurance or face a financial penalty.
Supporters say it 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 and business group 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 They say the law should be repealed in its entirety if the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.
On Tuesday, the court's most conservative members, led by Justice
Antonin 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
Both Chief Justice John 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 Supreme Court's nine justices were also spending 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.
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.
The 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
The case comes before a divided bench made up of five justices appointed
by Republican presidents and four appointed by Democrats.
The court is expected to issue its decision in June.