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Looking at the real costs of health care

Demonstrators for and against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act march and chant in outside the U.S. Supreme Court Building on March 26, 2012 in Washington, D.C.

Stacey Vanek Smith: It is day two of the Supreme Court's healthcare reform debate. Today the big court tackles the big question: Can the government force uninsured individuals to buy health insurance? It's known as the individual mandate.

Our own Amy Scott joins us live to talk about this. Good morning, Amy.

Amy Scott: Good morning.

Smith: Amy, remind us what this individual mandate means.           

Scott: Well, by 2014, most people who don't get insurance through their employer or Medicare or Medicaid would have to buy it, or pay a penalty. There'll be subsidies to help offset the cost. And what the court is considering today is whether Congress has the authority require people to buy a product.

Smith: One goal of health care reform was, of course, to bring down health care costs. Just how much is this law supposed to save us?
 
Scott: Right. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projects in the first ten years, it will reduce the deficit by around $135 billion.

As for individuals, today I talked with Ron Pollack with Families USA -- actually, as he was walking into the Supreme Court building. His group advocates for the law. He says says a typical family pays more than $1,000 a year more in premiums to cover the costs of the uninsured.

Ron Pollack: So as more and more people get health insurance, it's going to mean that that cost will diminish.

On the other hand, insured people use more health care services. And some argue that in Massachusetts -- which has a similar individual mandate -- costs have increased as more people have bought insurance.

Smith:  Marketplace's Amy Scott -- thank you, Amy.

Scott: You're welcome.

About the author

Amy Scott is Marketplace’s education correspondent covering the K-12 and higher education beats, as well as general business and economic stories.

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