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Supreme Court Prepares to Tackle Affordable Care Act
Date:3/26/2012

By Lisa Esposito
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, March 22 (HealthDay News) -- The most ambitious government health-care initiative since the Medicare and Medicaid programs of the 1960s, and the legislative landmark of President Barack Obama's presidency, is about to face its biggest challenge.

Starting Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear an unprecedented six hours of arguments over three days on the constitutionality of the controversial and massive health-reform initiative known as the Affordable Care Act.

The law -- the first national legislative effort to rein in health-care costs -- aims to extend insurance coverage to more than 30 million Americans through an expansion of Medicaid and a provision that people buy health insurance starting in 2014 or face a penalty.

"There are 50 million people in this country who don't have health insurance. The Affordable Care Act will probably extend coverage to an estimated 30 to 32 million of those people," said Renee Landers, a professor at Suffolk University Law School in Boston.

The key sticking point in the legal showdown is whether Congress exceeded its authority with the law's so-called "individual mandate," which requires almost all adult Americans to maintain health insurance or risk a penalty in the form of a tax.

The individual mandate -- scheduled to take effect in January 2014 -- is the pivotal piece of the law.

"The requirement that people purchase insurance is the key to having health insurance be there for everyone when they need it," said John Rother, president of the National Coalition on Health Care, which works to achieve reform of the U.S. health-care system.

Opponents call the mandate a stunning government intrusion into the private lives of Americans and argue that Congress has no right to tell an individual to buy a certain product.

Grace-Marie Turner, president of the Galen Institute, a conservative public policy
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