Healthcare Technology Featured Article

December 22, 2011

Supreme Court to Hear Challenge to Health Reform Act in March

Will you or won’t you be forced to buy health insurance under the new healthcare reform act?

March 26 is the date. That’s when the Supreme Court will begin to consider this burning-hot issue in an election year:  whether challenges to the law can be made to the section of the Affordable Care Act , “the individual mandate” that requires that all Americans buy or have health insurance before 2014, when the mandate goes into effect, according to a story by Joseph Goedert at

According to the Affordable Care Act, as it now stands, all Americans must buy health insurance by 2014 or be fined. And plenty of people want to know if that’s constitutional.

The individual mandate issue itself will go before the court March 27, according to Other issues from the rest of the law are scheduled to be argued on March 28.  Another matter the court will hear on the same day is “whether the federal government can force states to expand their share of Medicaid costs and lose federal funds if they don’t,” Goedert writes.

The history goes like this: In the late 1980s, when politicians first began thinking about requiring employers to provide health insurance, the Heritage Foundation (a conservative think tank) also looked into ways to achieve universal coverage without burdening business, according to  

But here’s the rub. If you require all insurers to provide coverage for anyone, no matter their pre-existing conditions, healthy people would only buy insurance when they got sick. But, notes, if only sick people bought health insurance, that would quickly bankrupt the system, because insurers would be paying out more in doctors’ bills than premiums would bring in.

That’s when the Heritage Foundation suggested everyone should be responsible for buying health insurance, according to And that’s when the idea of “universal health care,” which is offered in other countries around the world, started to be bandied about.  But it wasn’t until President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act in 2010, that the issue, “the individual mandate” became front and center.

The law was signed into effect by President Obama almost exactly two years to the date the issue will be argued.

Bill Mears at writes that the court announced Monday it will hear 5½ hours of arguments spread over three days March 26-28.

A ruling is expected in late June.

Deborah DiSesa Hirsch is an award-winning health and technology writer who has worked for newspapers, magazines and IBM in her 20-year career. To read more of her articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Jennifer Russell

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