Monday, March 26, 2012

Supreme Court to Start Hearings on Health Reform Today

Today, the Supreme Court will begin hearings regarding the constitutionality of parts of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The Supreme Court will hear six hours of oral arguments over the course of the next few days looking at three issues. First, they are looking at the legality of the individual mandate. Second, they will decide if this part of the law can be severed from the rest of the ACA. And three, they will hear about the constitutionality of Medicaid expansion.

Titles I and II of the ACA will reduce the number of uninsured citizens in our country through two mechanisms: required insurance by everyone and by expanding Medicaid.

Title I is the divisive individual mandate whereas every person in this country is required by law to purchase health insurance or else they face a fine. This is similar to car insurance requirements. The individual mandate, which is historically a Republican policy idea, has been controversial since the bill was passed. Economist argue that by requiring everyone to buy insurance this will broaden the risk pool thereby protecting us all financially. Additionally, by requiring health insurance, it will reduce moral hazard such that people will not seek out coverage only when they are sick or injured.

Title II expands Medicaid to cover everyone who is under 133% of the federal poverty line. It is estimated that the Medicaid expansion will result in half of the newly insured 32 million Americans.

An important aspect of the Supreme Court hearings is whether or not the ACA can stand without Titles I and/or Title II. The ACA has already benefited millions of Americans. Young adults, who make up the second largest group of uninsured Americans, are already covered. Women's health insurance premiums have been reduced equal to their male counterparts. Provisions regarding prescription drug coverage have already saved our elderly population $32 billion. Children and adults are no longer denied coverage because they have a pre-existing condition. And most importantly, as a country we have come together to reach out to our most vulnerable populations.

The hearings this week and the subsequent ruling, which is expected to come out later this spring, will be historic and will significantly impact the lives of all Americans. For the sake of our country's health and economy, I hope to see the legislation held up.

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