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The Affordable Care Act: Is It Unconstitutional?

Daily Ticker

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Obama's health care reform represents the most sweeping overhaul of the current system and its fate is now in the hands of the nation's highest court.

The Supreme Court begins three days of oral arguments Monday on whether President Obama's health care reform law is constitutional. Twenty-six attorneys general have brought suit against the Affordable Care Act, Obama's signature and biggest legislative achievement.

The Affordable Care Act became law in March 2010 but the most controversial and contentious aspect of the law -- the individual mandate --does not go into effect until January 2014. The mandate requires that almost all adult Americans purchase health insurance. For those who opt out of coverage, a financial penalty or tax would be imposed. An estimated 50 million Americans are uninsured.

The individual mandate may be the main attraction in the legal showdown but the law's requirement that states comply with an expansion of Medicaid to cover more lower-income people without health insurance will also be challenged. The law would effectively expand Medicaid to 16 million people.

There are two other provisions that the court will consider: whether the law becomes invalid if the individual mandate is struck down and whether the court has jurisdiction to make a decision about the law since it has not fully gone into effect.

Yahoo! Finance economics editor Daniel Gross interviewed two experts with differing opinions of the health care reform law on The Daily Ticker.

Yaron Brook, president of the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights, opposes the Affordable Care Act and says the law will become a "disaster" in terms of cost, rationing of services and the destruction of insurance markets over time. In the accompanying video he argues against the part of the law that allows young adults age 26 or younger to be covered under their parents' insurance plan. Brook says his two children, ages 19 and 22, receive health insurance through his company plan, but his co-workers should not be "subsidizing" his children. He also argues that forcing insurance companies to accept Americans with pre-existing health conditions is "ultimately a way in which insurance companies are going to be destroyed." He says insurance companies have become "middle men in the redistribution of wealth."

David Callahan, a co-founder of Demos, a left-leaning think tank, says the Affordable Care Act may not be "a perfect solution" but it will reduce by the millions the number of Americans who are uninsured and lower the cost of insurance by making many healthy young people pay into state-run insurance exchanges. Callahan says the Affordable Care Act closely resembles the health care system in Massachusetts, which has seen great success in improving health care coverage and services for state citizens. That program has experienced "lower premium increases than in the rest of the country" and "one of the highest levels of insurance coverage," he says.

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