18 Months In, Obama Health Care Still Beset By Challenges

Nearly 18 months after Obama health care was signed in to legislation on March 23, 2010, the law is still met being met by challenges.  Obama health care seeks to extend health insurance coverage to over 30 million individuals, primarily by providing federal subsidies to assist low to moderate income Americans buying private coverage, and by expanding Medicaid.  During the first two years in office, this is the largest single legislative achievement of President Obama, and overwhelmingly the most controversial.

Challenges Facing Obama Health Care
There have been more than 20 challenges thus far against several aspects of the health care law.  Most of these challenges are in regards to the individual mandate, which requires that all Americans purchase health insurance or face paying a fine.  This mandate is key to the Obama health care law’s mission of expanding coverage.  Unless healthy people have policies, insurance providers argue that they will not be able to afford to treat individuals with costly chronic conditions.

By February of this year, the mandate had been upheld by three district judges; two found the health insurance mandate unconstitutional.  The judges in favor of Obama health care had been appointed by Democrats, the two finding the mandate unconstitutional were chosen by Republicans.

This summer three federal appeals courts weighed in on the matter, which ended in a three-way tie.  One court found the individual mandate constitutional, another found it unconstitutional, and another court ruled that plaintiffs (which included the state of Virginia) had no right to challenge the mandate.  Given the varied opinions, it’s almost a certainty that the matter ends up in the Supreme Court.

If  Obama health care is sustained in the courts, President Obama is certain to take his place in history as the one president, unlike Bill Clinton and Harry Truman, who succeeded at revamping America’s health care system.  If Obama health care does in fact remain intact, 16 million individuals will be added to the Medicaid rolls.  The  majority of Americans will be required to have health coverage, and coverage for low to moderate income people will have subsidized private coverage.  Private insurers will also be monitored more closely, as they will not have the right to deny care of those with pre-existing conditions.

As soon as Obama signed the bill, challenges filed in federal court began almost immediately.  The President has stated that he is willing to amend portions of the Obama health care law.  Obama said that if states could demonstrate other methods that would allow coverage for as many people as the individual mandate, with insurance coverage that is affordable and as comprehensive without increasing the federal deficit, they can request to circumvent minimum benefit levels.  All in all, whether the Obama health care individual mandate will live or die still seems to be an unanswered question.

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