Supreme Court continues debate over health care law

Physician's assistant Ann Valdez checks out Amy Morales, 2, during a check-up at a community health center on March 27, 2012 in Aurora, Colo.

Jeremy Hobson: Can the government force Americans to buy health insurance? That's the big question at the Supreme Court today as the justices consider constitutional challenges to President Obama's health care law.

Marketplace's health care reporter Gregory Warner joins us now from the steps of the Supreme Court. Good morning.

Gregory Warner: Good morning. It's freezing out here, I really respect all these protesters who've gathered to practice their chants.

Hobson: Well, it's probably a very exciting day for them -- but let me ask you, Gregory, what's going to be going on inside the court today?

Warner: So Jeremy, inside the court, the justices are going to be talking about the individual mandate -- this is the requirement that all Americans carry insurance; so if you don't have it already through your employer, you would have to buy it, and this would start in 2014. From a legal perspective, we're going to hear the world "limits" a lot, and the question is limits on Congressional power: Does the Congress, according to the Constitution, have the power to enter this health insurance market and make people buy insurance?

Hobson: And obviously, health care is something that affects all Americans -- or just about all Americans -- from a financial perspective. What's at stake here?

Warner: Look, we've been debating this question for almost 100 years. 1914, I think, was the first universal health provision proposed. So, I mean, look -- what's at stake here isn't just: will this historical law be allowed to go forward, but it's also: will the Supreme Court give the kind of authority to this law so that it'll be accepted by enough of the people.

Consider this individual mandate we're talking about: I mean, what's the penalty for not buying insurance? It's not much -- you can't go to jail, you can't get your house or car repossessed. So the law really depends on compliance. The economics of the law depend on compliance -- lots of healthy people deciding: OK, I'm going to buy health insurance. That's the only way that the health insurance market works.

Hobson: Marketplace's Gregory Warner at the Supreme Court in Washington. Thanks so much.

Warner: Thanks, Jeremy

 

About the author

Gregory Warner is a senior reporter covering the economics and business of healthcare for the entire Marketplace portfolio.

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