WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court is taking up the key question in the challenge to President Barack Obama’s historic health care overhaul: Can the government force people to carry insurance or pay a penalty?
The justices hear extended arguments on that topic Tuesday. It’s the linchpin of the law’s aim to get medical insurance to an additional 30 million people, at a reasonable cost to private insurers and state governments.
See also: Q&A: How the PPACA Hearing Will Unfold
Virtually every American will be affected by the outcome, due this summer in the heat of the presidential and congressional election campaigns.
Demonstrators returned Tuesday morning to the sidewalk outside the Supreme Court, with more than 100 supporters of the law circling the sidewalk and chanting, “A healthy America is a productive America,” ”Protect the law,” and, “I love Obamacare.”
More than a dozen opponents held a news conference criticizing the bill.
The administration says Congress has ample authority to impose the requirement that most people carry insurance or pay a penalty. Twenty-six states and a small business group trying to get the law struck down call the insurance requirement an unprecedented power grab by Congress.
They say that not even decades of high court rulings that endorsed an expansive view of congressional authority can support the health care law.
If upheld, the law will force dramatic changes in the way insurance companies do business, including forbidding them from denying coverage due to pre-existing medical conditions and limiting how much they can charge older people.
The law envisions that insurers will be able to accommodate older and sicker people without facing financial ruin because its most disputed element, the insurance requirement, will provide insurance companies with more premiums from healthy people to cover their increased costs of care.
White House press secretary Jay Carney, traveling Tuesday with Obama in South Korea, reiterated the administration’s contention that the health care law is constitutional, noting that the individual mandate provision had support among Republicans. However, Carney said, “The president feels that this is something for the court to decide, not for us to weigh in on directly.”