RECENT POSTS

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:

Play audio:
Audio player needs Flash9+ (download) and JavaScript.

Or read on for the complete transcript:
Continue reading

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

Supreme Court Audio and Transcript of Monday’s Health Law Oral Arguments

The Question: Can the Supreme Court Even Consider the Case Right Now?

Today the Supreme Court heard arguments about whether it needs to wait until 2015 to decide the constitutionality of the federal health care law. The question stems from the arcane 1867 Tax Anti-Junction Act.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires that people purchase health insurance or pay a penalty. Many people say this “penalty” is a tax in disguise. The Tax Anti-Injunction Act bars people from suing over a tax until they actually pay the tax. Since the ACA goes into full effect in 2014, no penalties will be paid until 2015 — which would be the soonest someone who paid the tax could challenge the constitutionality of the ACA.

The Court seemed skeptical of this argument in today’s hearings.

You can listen for yourself here:

Play audio:
Audio player needs Flash9+ (download) and JavaScript.

Or read on for the complete transcript:
Continue reading

Supreme Court and the Health Law: Word Search

From: NPR

(Image: NPR)

(Image: NPR)

When the U.S. Supreme Court hears challenges to the Obama administration’s health care law this week, the arguments will be complex, with questions about states’ rights, mandatory insurance, and Medicaid. To introduce some of those concepts — and to offer a way to occupy your time while the court deliberates — our friends at NPR offer a word search built around terms that will be in the news this week.

The court has set aside six hours to hear arguments about health care, the most time allotted for a single issue in decades. In that time, the justices will consider the government’s effort to lower the number of uninsured Americans. And at least one member of the high court will likely do it while wearing a jabot — a lace collar favored by female judges.

7 Things Health Care Reform Has Already Accomplished

(Flickr: Adrian Clark)

(Flickr: Adrian Clark)

Health Care Reform won’t be fully implemented for another two years, but the key here is “fully.” Some changes are already in effect.

The problem, as a recent poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation highlighted, is a lot of Americans are confused about some of the most basic elements of the plan, even those things that are already in effect.

Health policy consultant Linda Bergthold set out to inform people under the amusing headline “Holiday Gifts from Health Reform” in the Huffington Post last week. There’s something for the old, the young, some of the uninsured and even small business owners.

1. If you are 65 or older — (and eligible for Medicare) — seniors who are enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans (that’s Part C or the managed care part of Medicare) may have seen their premiums reduced this year. Some may even have access to ZERO premium health plans. Seniors also now receive free preventive treatments and a rebate of $500 if their drug coverage hits the “donut hole” in 2011.

Continue reading