US Supreme Court
Completes Day One of Health Care Arguments
March 26, 2012
The Supreme Court has completed its first day of arguments on President
Barack Obama's health care overhaul, a landmark case that could affect
the lives of nearly every American.
During the nearly 90-minute hearing Monday, the justices' intensive
questioning indicated that a legal issue with the potential to derail
the case will not stand in the way of the proceeding.
The central issue in this case is a provision in the law requiring
nearly all Americans to buy health insurance.
Supporters of the measure say the provision is needed to spread the cost
of health care among all Americans. Opponents are arguing the measure
violates the Constitution and tramples on individual liberties.
Under the new law, Americans who choose not to purchase health insurance
will be required to pay a penalty. The question posed Monday was whether
the penalty is a tax. A U.S. law prevents tax cases from being heard
before the tax is paid.
Mr. Obama signed the law in 2010, but key portions will not be
implemented until 2014.
The court's nine justices will hear six hours of oral arguments in the
course of three days, the most the court has scheduled for a single
issue since the 1960s.
The court is expected to issue its decision in June.
Scores of protesters in favor of the legislation waved signs, sang and
chanted “Support Obamacare” outside the Supreme Court. A VOA reporter
says fewer against the measure gathered, but challenged their opponents
to impromptu, civil debates.
The law has also become an issue of debate on the campaign trail.
Republican candidates are vowing to repeal the health care policy if
they unseat President Obama in the November election.
Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum showed up on the steps
of the highest court Monday to voice his disapproval. Santorum used the
opportunity to tout himself as the candidate most able to repeal the
“And there's one candidate who is uniquely disqualified to make the
case. It's the reason I am here, and he's not. The reason I talk about
Obamacare and its impact on the economy and fundamental freedoms, and
Mitt Romney doesn't. It's because he can't because he supported
government run health care as governor of Massachusetts.”
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney supported a law requiring
residents of Massachusetts to obtain health insurance while serving as
The law — derisively labeled “Obamacare” — seeks to extend medical
insurance to millions of Americans who do not have any. It has become a
rallying point for conservatives who claim the changes will lead to
bureaucrats replacing doctors in medical decision-making, and that the
quality of health care will diminish.
Opponents of the requirement to buy health insurance, called the
individual mandate, say Congress lacks the authority to force Americans
to purchase the coverage. In briefs filed to the court, they say the
mandate is “unprecedented” and a decision upholding it would do
“irreparable damage” to the constitutional system.
The Obama administration has argued Congress does have the authority
under its Constitutional powers to regulate interstate commerce and levy
health care law also 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.
Proponents of the individual mandate say it will expand the market of
healthy people who otherwise would not purchase insurance, helping
offset the cost of covering people with higher medical bills.
This case comes before a divided bench made up of five justices
appointed by Republican presidents and the rest appointed by Democrats.
The health care overhaul was the most significant reform to the U.S.
health care system in four decades and a key portion of Mr. Obama's