UPDATED: Supreme Court Hears First Day of Historic Arguments on Obamacare
Three days of hearings are the most time allocated to an issue since 60s.
The Affordable Care Act or "Obamacare" is getting its day(s) before the US Supreme Court, and the outcome could affect all Americans for decades to come. The justices will decide if the nation may keep, or should discard, one of the largest expansions of federal government authority in decades.
However, the law has opponents who say that it raises costs rather than saving coasts. Further that it is unconstitutional because it mandates that Americans must purchase coverage or face penalties and dangerously expands the reach of the Federal Government.This is the first time in history that the American people are being compelled by the Federal government to purchase a good or service.
In addition, the law has drawn the strong opposition of the Catholic Church, other Christians, other people of faith and many people of good will who strongly object to a mandate requiring that all employers provide contraceptives, abortion inducing drugs and sterilization or face fines and penalties. That includes church run hospitals and outreaches to the poor and the needy. This is a violation of the First Ammendment's Free Exercise of Religion.
In addition to compelling Americans to buy insurance, it would also bring about changes in how insurance companies operate. Insurers would no longer be allowed to deny coverage based on preexisting conditions and there would be limits on how much senior citizens could be charged. The law also allows parents to keep their children insured until age 26.
Some say the law will expand Medicaid. Others say it will end up dangerously undercutting the program. The law is mostly supported by congressional Democrats. However, most Republicans - and a few Democrats - are fighting the law for many reasons. It expands the role of the Federal Government in our health care decisions. Also, many claim that rather than save costs it has become too costly to implement, a charge proponents Democrats deny.
The Obama administration has been under fire from the law's supporters who say the President hasn't done enough to educate the public and promote the law.
Meanwhile, the US Supreme Court is now holding a virtually unprecedented three days worth of hearings on the matter, something that has not happened since the 1960s. The court will release same-day audio recordings, which is also unusual.
President Obama campaigned on a healthcare reform platform, pointing out that the US pays more on healthcare than any other developed nation in the world, but does not enjoy a corresponding increase in life expectancy health care quality.
Monday's arguments focused on whether or not the SCOTUS has jurisdiction in the case - at this time. It all revolved around whether the amount payed by those who fail to participate is a "tax" or a "penalty". An argument made by supporters used a 19th century tax law to prevent a hearing on the case.
The 1867 Anti-injunction Act prevents court suits from collecting tax payments before an amount is paid or formal collections have begun. The rule under the act is "pay first, litigate later." If viewed as a tax, it would render this dispute as not "ripe" because no such tax has yet been exacted.
However, the justices do not appear to have seen any merit in the argument. Justice Sotomayor asked what "parade of horribles" would occur of the case was heard now.
Robert Long, the attorney appointed (by the justices to argue the point as a sort of devil's advocate) said that it could open the door to other waivers under the act thus opening the floodgates to new litigation. Justice Scalia drew laughter by replying to this, "So basically there will be no parade of horrors because all federal judges are intelligent," -a sarcastic remark.
Justice Stephen Beyer said that the act does not use the term "tax" anywhere in its language, so tax law might not apply.
The court appeared ready to continue hearings on the case tomorrow and Wednesday.
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Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for March 2014
Respect for Women: That all cultures may respect the rights and dignity of women.
Vocations: That many young people may accept the Lordís invitation to consecrate their lives to proclaiming the Gospel.
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