The US supreme court has upheld Barack Obama’s landmark healthcare reform law, delivering the president a major victory going into November’s election campaign but also setting up a fresh political battle over the legislation’s future.
In an historic, and in some quarters unexpected, ruling, the supreme court upheld the legislation on the grounds that its central provision – the requirement for almost all Americans to buy health insurance known as the individual mandate – is legal because the measure amounts to a tax, The Guardian reported.
The court ruled that while the individual mandate is not itself a tax, the penalties imposed for not buying health insurance are, and that therefore the entire requirement falls within the remit of Congress’s right to impose taxes.
The legal challenge had come from more than half of US states, which argued that a cornerstone of the reforms, requiring most Americans to buy health insurance, was an infringement on liberty and was unconstitutional.
The future of the reforms now lies with the outcome of the election in November.
The Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, has said that if he is elected he will immediately issue an order permitting all 50 US states to opt out of the remaining provisions of the health reform law.
But Obama is counting on Americans growing to like the reforms as they kick in and people benefit from a law that extends insurance coverage to 50 million Americans who were priced out of the market and ending a slew of immoral practices that led to people losing their homes to pay medical bills after their insurance was cut off.
While opinion polls consistently show more Americans opposed to Obama’s reforms than in support of them, particularly the individual mandate, some elements are popular. These include a requirement for insurance companies to include young adults up to the age of 26 to be included on their parents’ policies, the end of the practice of insurance companies cutting off coverage to people in the midst of treatment for serious conditions which was widely condemned as immoral and the barring of discrimination against people with preexisting conditions.
Many experts, however, said Congress went beyond its powers by, for the first time in its history, requiring people to buy a product from the private sector.
The supreme court did challenge one part of the law in which the federal government sought to pressure individual states by threatening to withhold funds for Medicaid unless they agreed to expand the programme to include a wider range of poorer people. The court said that Washington cannot penalise state governments by taking away existing Medicaid funds. tām finanšu līdzekļus.