MONDAY, Nov. 14 (HealthDay News) -- The U.S. Supreme Court
agreed on Monday to hear challenges to President Barack Obama's
health reform legislation, with a decision expected in June on
whether some parts of the controversial initiative are
The decision could possibly turn the 2012 presidential election
into a referendum on Obama's ambitious plan to provide health care
to all Americans.
Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act into
law in March 2010 and, since then, certain provisions have been
enacted, such as prohibiting insurers from denying coverage to
people with pre-existing conditions and requiring insurers to allow
children to stay on their parents' coverage plans until they are
The law aims to extend insurance coverage to more than 30
million Americans, through an expansion of Medicaid and the
provision that people buy health insurance starting in 2014 or face
Challenges to the law have been heard by four lower courts, only
one of which struck down the law's central provision, the so-called
"individual mandate," which requires all Americans to purchase
health insurance or be fined. The mandate is integral to the reform
plan because, in theory, it brings premium rates down as part of
state-managed insurance "pools."
Republicans and free-market advocates have charged that the
mandate is unconstitutional, giving Congress too much authority to
tell Americans what to do.
"The administration is vulnerable because they've never been able to draw a line on what Congress can require people to do and some of the things they can't," said John Goodman, president of the National Center for Policy Analysis, a nonpartisan, nonprofit think tank focused on free-market approaches to public policy.
"At hearings and court arguments we've heard the question over and over asked, 'Can the federal government require us to drink orange juice every day? Can it require us to eat broccoli?' " added Goodman, who believes the mandate will be struck down. "People come up with ridiculous scenarios, and the administration has never had a decent answer to that."
Michael Russo, a health care policy analyst with U.S. Public
Interest Research Group, disagreed, saying he felt the individual
mandate will be upheld by the Supreme Court.
If the law were struck down, he said, it would be "chaos."
"A lot has already been done to implement the law and to build new reforms on top of it," Russo said. "If the law got struck down, everything done on health care in the last year-and-a-half would be in jeopardy. It's unclear which of the reforms could move ahead."
Reacting to Monday's announcement by the Supreme Court, White
House spokesman Dan Pfeiffer said in a statement: "We are pleased
that the court has agreed to hear this case. We know the Affordable
Care Act is constitutional and are confident the Supreme Court will
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky called the
law an "unprecedented and unconstitutional expansion of the federal
government into the daily lives of every American," the
Associated Press reported.
"In both public surveys and at the ballot box, Americans have rejected the law's mandate that they must buy government-approved health insurance, and I hope the Supreme Court will do the same," he said.
In March, a
Harris Interactive/HealthDay poll found that only 22 percent
of Americans support this provision although they did favor other
elements of the plan, such as health insurance exchanges that will
allow consumers to shop for coverage and tax credits so small
businesses can afford coverage for employees.
Harris Interactive/HealthDay polls consistently found that
the individual mandate is the only part of the Affordable Care Act
that is unpopular with a majority of Americans.
In line with public thinking, Goodman feels that many of the
law's provision will be left in place.
Of course, it will be impossible to know what the future of
American health care coverage will look like until the Supreme
Court does hand down its much-anticipated ruling.
"If the mandate goes away, that's one thing. If the mandate doesn't go away, that's another thing," said Russo.
Ron Pollack is executive director of Families USA and a lawyer
who has argued cases before the Supreme Court. He said: "If the
Supreme Court decides that the individual responsibility provision
is not constitutional then they have to decide should this have any
effect on any other part of the statute. Of the four courts that
have issued rulings, three of them did not in any way invalidate
the individual responsibility provision, and the one court that
[did] also upheld that other provisions of the statute should not
be affected by the ruling.
"While my own presumption is that the Affordable Care Act will be upheld in its entirety to be constitutional, one of the things I've learned is that you never hazard a guess," he added.
For more on the Affordable Care Act, visit
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