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Obama Health Care Hearing Enters Second Day

Catherine Green |
March 27, 2012 | 8:25 a.m. PDT

Executive Producer

An historic Supreme Court hearing continues. (Phil Roeder/Flickr)
An historic Supreme Court hearing continues. (Phil Roeder/Flickr)
Day 2 of the Supreme Court's hearing on President Obama's health care overhaul dawned Tuesday, with the focus shifting toward constitutionality of the so-called individual mandate.

From the Wall Street Journal's report of proceedings:

Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy on Tuesday said the government has a "very heavy burden of justification" to show where the Constitution authorizes Congress to change the relation of individuals to the government.

Justice Kennedy was speaking at Supreme Court arguments Tuesday morning as the court tackled the central issue in the challenge to the Obama administration's health-care law—whether Congress could require individuals to carry health insurance or pay a penalty.

Solicitor General Donald Verrilli was defending the law before the justices and argued that Congress was regulating the health-care market in which people were already participating, rather than breaking new ground by forcing them to buy a product.

Justice Kennedy probed Mr. Verrilli on whether the same reasoning could apply to food. The justice asked what limits, if any, there would be to government powers under his argument.

Justices are scheduled to debate the issue for two hours today, twice the normal time according to The Washington Post

Obama has pushed for a "minimum coverage provision" under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act passed in 2010 that requires most Americans find health insurance by 2014 or pay a penalty fine on 2015 tax returns.

Though Republicans are actually responsible for brainstorming the mandate, most now count themselves among its critics in the current form.

From The Post:

People who do not buy insurance are, by definition, not engaged in economic activity, they say. And they contend that there is no precedent for empowering Congress to essentially force otherwise inactive people to enter one of the markets that Congress can regulate.

The government counters that because virtually everyone will need health care, a person who chooses to forgo insurance is engaged in economic activity: They are effectively making an economic decision about how they will pay for their eventual health care — either by paying for it out of pocket, or by passing the costs on to hospitals, governments and, ultimately, other patients.

Congress certainly must have the ability to regulate health-care spending, which accounts for nearly 18 percent of the nation’s economy, the government argues.

“As a class, the uninsured shift tens of billions of dollars of costs for the uncompensated care they receive to other market participants annually,” the government’s brief to the court said. “That cost shifting drives up insurance premiums, which, in turn, makes insurance unaffordable to even more people."

Demonstrators gathered outside the Supreme Court Monday, urging justices through chanting to "Protect the law." The Post reports GOP opponents are planning their own rally.

 

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