Monthly Archives: March 2012

Can Health Law Stand Without the Individual Mandate?

The constitutionality of the Medicaid expansion is also before the Court today.

(Image: Kaiser Health News)

(Image: Kaiser Health News)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The heart of the Obama administration’s health care overhaul hanging in the balance, the Supreme Court is turning to whether the rest of the law can survive if the crucial individual insurance requirement is struck down.

The justices also will spend part of Wednesday, the last of three days of arguments over the health law, considering a challenge by 26 states to the expansion of the Medicaid program for low-income Americans, an important feature toward the overall goal of extending health insurance to an additional 30 million people.

The first two days of fast-paced and extended arguments have shown that the conservative justices have serious questions about Congress’ authority to require virtually every American to carry insurance or pay a penalty. Continue reading

Slideshow: A Cold Morning But Crowds Pro and Con Gather at Supreme Court

Slideshow produced by Jessica Marcy, Kaiser Health News and Amanda Stupi, KQED

Inside the Supreme Court building this week, the nation’s highest court is hearing oral arguments in a case that seeks to overturn the 2010 health law. Outside the building, Americans gathered to express their support or opposition to the law — or just to see history being made.

The second image is of Spike Dolomite Ward, who wrote an apology to President Obama in December.

What Impact Will the Court’s Decision Have on California?

(Ronnie Pitman: Flickr)

Over the last year as the myriad court cases about the federal health care law have made their way to the highest court in the land, California has spent that time moving ahead aggressively in implementing the Affordable Care Act (ACA). California was the first state to pass legislation to set up a health insurance exchange. The state also set up a new high risk pool so people with pre-existing conditions can get health insurance.

But what happens if the Supreme Court declares the individual mandate unconstitutional? Or overturns the entire law? What can still go forward in California?

The answer depends in part upon whom you ask. But for the most part California — like all states — will find it tough to move forward without the backing of the federal law. Continue reading

Quick Read: Day 2 at the Court: “That Could Have Gone Better”

Jonathan Cohn breaks down today’s arguments about the individual mandate from a health policy perspective. Cohn backs many of the government’s arguments, but you’ll get a sense of how today went even if you oppose the overhaul. Most surprising is his assessment that the justices do not seem to grasp the “specifics of the health insurance market.”


My first impression from day two at the Supreme Court: I was more confident yesterday than I am today. I can still imagine the justices upholding the individual mandate. But, at this point, I can just as easily imagine them striking it down. Tuesday’s hearing was energized and contentious, from start to finish.

Read more at: www.tnr.com

Audio/Transcript of Tuesday’s Supreme Court Hearings on the Individual Mandate

The Question: Is the individual mandate constitutional?

Of the four questions the Supreme Court is considering, this is the big one. The Affordable Care Act requires all Americans to purchase health insurance or pay a penalty. If your annual income is below a certain level–about $92,000 for a family of four– the government will provide subsidies or tax credits to help you. The primary legal question is this: does Congress have the authority under the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution to require Americans to purchase a product, in this case health insurance? Those in favor say yes–Congress can both regulate interstate commerce and legislate taxes. Those opposed say this is the first time Congress has required Americans to purchase a product and it’s unconstitutional.

As she left the hearings, NPR’s Nina Totenberg tweeted, ”The government had a hard time. And if they win, they win narrowly. I don’t think you can call this.”

You can listen to the complete oral arguments here:

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Or read on for the complete transcript:
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Supreme Court Justices Sharply Question Individual Mandate

By: KQED News Staff and wires

Chief Justice John Roberts is emerging as a potential swing vote. (Courtesy: U.S. Supreme Court)

Chief Justice John Roberts is emerging as a potential swing vote regarding the individual mandate. (Courtesy: U.S. Supreme Court)

Sharp questioning by the Supreme Court’s conservative justices has cast serious doubt on the survival of the individual insurance requirement at the heart of President Barack Obama’s historic health care overhaul.

Arguments at the high court Tuesday focused on whether the insurance requirement “is a step beyond what our cases allow,” in the words of Justice Anthony Kennedy.

He and Chief Justice John Roberts are emerging as the seemingly pivotal votes.

Justices Antonin Scalia and Samuel Alito appeared likely to join with Justice Clarence Thomas to vote to strike down the key provision. The four Democratic appointees seemed ready to vote to uphold it.

The individual mandate requires those not covered by employer-based health insurance, Medicare or Medicaid to purchase coverage, with the help of government subsidies if they meet a certain income threshold. Continue reading

Justices Tackle The Big Question: Can Congress Force You To Buy Insurance?

Protesters demonstrate in front of the Supreme Court on the second day of hearings about the constitutionality of the federal health care law. (Mark Wilson: Getty Images)

Protesters demonstrate in front of the Supreme Court on the second day of hearings about the constitutionality of the federal health care law. (Mark Wilson: Getty Images)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court is taking up the key question in the challenge to President Barack Obama’s historic health care overhaul: Can the government force people to carry insurance or pay a penalty?

The justices hear extended arguments on that topic this morning. It’s the linchpin of the law’s aim to get medical insurance to an additional 30 million people, at a reasonable cost to private insurers and state governments.

Virtually every American will be affected by the outcome, due this summer in the heat of the presidential and congressional election campaigns. Continue reading

Health Insurance Executive Is Longtime Backer of Universal Coverage

Bruce Bodaken is CEO of Blue Shield of California. (Photo Courtesy of Blue Shield)

Bruce Bodaken is CEO of Blue Shield of California. (Photo: Cindy Charles)

To those who haven’t followed the health care debate closely until now, you might be surprised by one of California’s leading proponents of universal coverage. It’s Bruce Bodaken, CEO of Blue Shield of California, one of California’s largest health insurance companies. He first proposed a system of universal coverage for Californians ten years ago.

“At that time, there was 20 percent of Californians without coverage,” he said in an interview with KQED. “We looked at that in one of the richest societies in the world and said, ‘Simply unacceptable for people not to have at least basic health care.’ So we proposed that all people in California have at least basic coverage. Those that can’t afford it would be subsidized and all groups and individuals would be mandated to be covered.”

It sounds a lot like the Affordable Care Act (ACA) being considered by the Supreme Court this week. Tomorrow, the Court will hear oral arguments about the constitutionality of the individual mandate — the requirement that all Americans have health insurance. Those opposed say that Congress has exceeded its authority in requiring Americans to purchase a product. Continue reading

Slideshow: Advocates, Critics & Cats Outside Supreme Court

By Jessica Marcy, Kaiser Health News

Inside the Supreme Court building this week, the nation’s highest court is hearing oral arguments in a case that seeks to overturn the 2010 health law. Outside the building, Americans gathered to express their support or opposition to the law — or just to see history being made.

(KQED Note: yes, that is a cat on a leash on the steps of the Supreme Court, and yes, NPR’s Scott Hensley did blog about the now quasi-famous cat.)