Almost two years to the date when President Barack Obama signed the landmark health care reform legislation into law, the U.S. Supreme Court is hearing arguments to decide whether it is constitutional. The heart of the challenge, filed by more than half the states in the union, some groups, and individuals lies with this question: can the government force nearly all Americans to buy health insurance? But before the justices can rule on this federal mandate, they must decide if they can hear lawsuits that aim to block a tax before it’s paid. Simply put, can Congress regulate “lack of activity” such as the choice to not buy health insurance?
While the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act as it is known is still being determined, the mandate’s popularity is not. Americans overwhelmingly oppose forcing people to buy health insurance: although 36 percent of those surveyed approve of the law, 47 percent do not, with two-thirds wanting some, or all of it overturned. Still, large numbers —85 percent— support key parts, such as requiring insurance companies to cover those with a pre-existing medical condition, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.
These views expose the deep partisan divide, with hard-core conservatives ardently opposing it, while resolute liberals passionately support it. To bolster approval, the Obama administration has targeted critical voting blocs such as women and Latino voters. In many surveys including Fox News Latino’s most recent poll, health care is a top issue, only outranked by the economy, jobs, and education. A White House blog geared toward the Hispanic community, which has the highest numbers of insured of any racial or ethnic group, notes some of the law’s benefits:
• 6.1 million Latinos now have access to preventive care without co-pays or co-insurance.
• Increased funding to more than 1,100 community health centers nationwide, doubling the number of patients served from 19 million to nearly 40 million by 2015.
• Insurance companies are prohibited from denying coverage to children because of a pre-existing medication condition which in 2014 will be expanded to anyone with a pre-existing condition.
But opponents, including the conservative Hispanic Leadership Network, argue that the government centralizing control of the healthcare system fails the Latino community by raising insurance costs for those who purchase individual plans, decreasing quality of coverage, increasing the federal deficit, and threatening jobs if companies, especially small businesses, have to cut positions to meet this mandate, assertions confirmed by the New York Times/CBS News poll.
Although the justices are hearing an unprecedented three days of oral arguments, they are not expected to release their ruling until June, likely placing this issue at the center of the presidential race, just months before the November election.
Viviana Hurtado’s blog The Wise Latina Club has won "Best Politics Blogger" awards by LATISM and Blogs by Latinas. She is a regular columnist for Fox News Latino. You can follow her on twitter at: @vivianahurtado
Viviana Hurtado is the founder and blogger-in-chief at The Wise Latina Club and the host of Hispanic Business Today: American Success Stories, nationally syndicated on NBC. She is a regular columnist for Fox News Latino. You can follow her on Twitter at: @vivianahurtado