The Supreme Court Rules on Health Care
The nation’s highest court upholds a new law
TOP: Democrats and Republicans debated fiercely over the health-care law. (Mark Wilson / Getty Images)
BOTTOM: The Supreme Court is composed of nine Justices and is the highest court in the land. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP Images)
The Supreme Court of the United States declared on Thursday that the Affordable Care Act (ACA)—a law that makes major reforms to the U.S. health-care system—does not violate the Constitution.
The ruling means that the government can now move forward with changes and new plans for how people get and pay for their medical care and health insurance.
Health insurance helps pay for care and treatment when someone is sick or injured. When people buy medical insurance, the insurance will then pay much of the cost for visits to the doctor, prescription medicines, and hospital stays.
AN ILLEGAL LAW?
Congress passed the health-care bill and President Barack Obama, a Democrat, signed it into law in March 2010. Many Republicans in Congress were, and continue to be, against the changes proposed in the law. They argue that the law costs too much and gives the government too much power in personal health matters.
Over the past two years, opponents of the ACA have filed multiple lawsuits saying certain parts of the health-care law are unconstitutional. This means that it violates or breaks a rule in the U.S. Constitution, the supreme law of the land.
The Supreme Court, the nation’s highest court, is the final judge in all cases involving laws passed by Congress. Its nine Justices (a special type of judge) are kind of like referees. If the Supreme Court decides a law is unconstitutional, then it can no longer be a law.
The Justices were narrowly divided, but they upheld the law by a vote of 5-4.
THE LETTER OF THE LAW
Millions of U.S. families do not have health insurance. The health-care reform law could help about 32 million people who cannot afford to buy health insurance to be able to get this coverage. The law also allows children to stay covered by a parent's insurance until they are 26 years old.
Another change is that insurance companies will not be able to put a limit on how much treatment they will pay for. People with long-lasting, serious illnesses like cancer often face very high medical bills. The ACA will keep insurance companies from stopping payment of such bills.
Additionally, some insurance companies have at times denied coverage to people who have a “pre-existing condition,” which means they are already sick. This law says insurance companies can no longer do that to people.
After Chief Justice John Roberts delivered the Court’s ruling on Thursday, many Republicans vowed they would work to repeal (cancel) it. President Obama was pleased with the Supreme Court’s decision.
The Republican presidential candidate, Governor Mitt Romney, strongly disagrees with his opponent, President Obama, on the way the government should handle health care. This issue will continue to be a major topic throughout the presidential race.