Photo Source: USA Today
This has been a big week at the Supreme Court, as justices heard arguments relating to the Affordable Care Act, which was signed into law in 2010—but is now being challenged.
At the core of the law is the “individual mandate”: the requirement that everyone purchase health care coverage (unless you are already covered), or pay a fine.
Why? Because right now some 50 million Americans are walking around without health insurance, many of whom end up relying on public coverage. This increases the cost of premiums by about $1,000 per year for every insured American.
Lower courts have sought to strike down the mandate, arguing that it’s unconstitutional for the government to insist that people purchase health care coverage (or any commercial product). The conservative Court Justices also seemed hostile to the mandate in their questions yesterday.
There’s a lot more to the law (and this animated video provides a digestible version of it). But the question between now and June, when the Court hands down its final decision, is whether the individual mandate can be upheld.
If not, can any part of the law survive—particularly the expansion of Medicaid to cover poorer Americans and a provision that would protect people with pre-existing conditions?
If the entire health care law is struck down we’ll be right back where we started, with a system that depends on high-priced private insurance coverage, and leaves millions uninsured.