Gary: There are about 45 million people in the U.S. without health insurance. No insurance means if they have a medical problem, they have to pay for it out of their pocket. The White House says the healthcare law approved back in 2010 guarantees all Americans have access to affordable healthcare. It requires insurance companies to cover people with pre-existing conditions and can’t deny coverage to anyone with an illness or disease.
Eighty-five percent of Americans say they like that part of the law, according to a new CBS News/New York Times poll. And 68% of those surveyed said they like that the law gives young people under the age of 26 the option to stay on their parents’ insurance plan rather than having to purchase an insurance plan of their own.
But there is a much more controversial part of the healthcare reform package, and that is what is being debated in the Supreme Court.
Beginning in 2014, almost everyone will be required to buy health insurance or pay a fine. It is called the “individual mandate.” And 51% of Americans polled say they don’t like it. Many argue that Congress doesn’t have the authority to pass this type of law. The Constitution does include a commerce clause which says Congress has the power to regulate commerce. But critics of the individual mandate say Congress isn’t allowed to create commerce by making people buy things they don’t want. They argue the government could then force people to buy fuel-efficient cars or healthy food.
The Obama administration insists the law isn’t creating commerce, it is just helping to regulate the health care industry.
People without insurance may end up getting medical care at places like emergency rooms and sometimes never pay for it, which drives up healthcare costs for everyone.
So the Supreme Court will be considering a couple of things. Could the court just strike down the individual mandate portion of the law if it finds that Congress went too far? Or would the justices have to strike down the entire law, including the parts the majority of Americans support?
We should know by summer.
Scott, back to you.
- What side of the health care debate are you on?