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Supreme Court Justices Ask Skeptical Questions In Health Care Case

10:42 PM, Mar 27, 2012   |    comments
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WASHINGTON, DC (WUSA) ---  The Supreme Court heard arguments on the  "individual mandate," or the requirement that all Americans must buy health insurance or pay a penalty.  

Tuesday marked the second day of Department of Health and Human Services, et. al, Petitioners, VS. Florida, et. al. 

The Supreme Court justices questioned the constitutionality of the key element in the Affordable Health Care Act, the controversial health care law President Obama signed two years ago. Respondents in this case argue the mandate violates states rights.    

The Supreme Court justices asked skeptical questions using hypothetical scenarios. 

"So can the government require you to buy a cell phone because that would facilitate responding when you need emergency services? You can just dial 911 no matter where you are?" asked Chief Justice John Roberts, Jr. 

"No, Mr. Chief Justice. I think that's different," responded the Solicitor General, Donald Verrilli who argued in favor of the individual mandate. 

On the other hand, Michael Carvin was one of the lawyers arguing against the mandate. 

"I think anybody's got to be skeptical about the unbounded power the government is trying to assert for the first time," Carvin told 9NEWS NOW on the steps of the Supreme Court. 

Walter Dellinger is a former Solicitor General in the Clinton Administration. He said not every justice gave hints to his or her judgement. 

"Some of the justices clearly signaled where they're going to come out. But the Chief Justice, Justice Kennedy did not. They asked tough questions of both sides," Dellinger said. 

Justice Anthony Kennedy was among those who questioned whether the federal government has the power to order people to buy health insurance, or anything else. 

"...that changes the relationship of the Federal Government to the individual in the very fundamental way," said Kennedy. 

The four liberal justices offered a ringing defense of the law.

Justice Stephen Breyer painted a hypothetical massive health event with his question:

"...a disease is sweeping the United States, and 40 million people are susceptible, of whom 10 million will die; can't the Federal Government say all 40 million get inoculation?"

"State governments can solve all those problems. The Federal government is limited," Carvin maintained. 

"How can you wait until after you get hit by a car to go out and purchase insurance? It's impossible," 9NEWS NOW's Bruce Leshan asked Carvin.  

"No. Obviously, once you go to the emergency room, they can sign you up," Carvin replied. 

If health care reform and its individual mandate is to stand, at least one of those conservative justices will have to be convinced the mandate is constitutional. 

Virtually every American will be affected by the Supreme Court's decision which is due out by late June.


Written by: Bruce Leshan


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