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Supreme Court justices grapple with health care law's minimum coverage mandate
WASHINGTON (AP) ' Some insurance experts say there may be a misunderstanding among members of the Supreme Court about President Barack Obama's health care overhaul law.
During the recent oral arguments some of the justices and the lawyers appearing before them seemed to be under the impression that the law does not allow most consumers to buy bare bones insurance to satisfy its controversial coverage mandate.
In fact, the law provides for a "bronze plan" that several insurance experts said is similar to so-called catastrophic insurance sold today.
Here are some excerpts from last month's oral arguments:
Chief Justice John Roberts: "If I understand the law, the policies that you're requiring people to purchase ... must contain provision for maternity and newborn care, pediatric services and substance use treatment. It seems to me that you cannot say that everybody is going to need ... substance use treatment or pediatric services, and yet that is part of what you require them to purchase."
Justice Samuel Alito: "The mandate is forcing these people (young, healthy individuals) to provide a huge subsidy to the insurance companies for other purposes that the act wishes to serve ... isn't it the case that what this mandate is really doing is not requiring the people who are subject to it to pay for the services that they are going to consume? It is requiring them to subsidize services that will be received by somebody else."
Paul Clement, attorney for states suing to overturn the law: "If all we were concerned about is the cost sharing that took place because of uncompensated care in emergency rooms, presumably we'd have before us a statute that only addressed emergency care and catastrophic insurance coverage. But it covers everything, soup to nuts, and all sorts of other things...
"There's a much bigger cost shifting going on here, and that's the cost shifting that goes on when you force healthy people into an insurance market precisely because they're healthy ... precisely because they're not likely to use the insurance they're forced to buy."
Michael Carvin, attorney for the National Federation of Independent Business, suing to overturn the law: "One of the issues here is not only that they're compelling us to enter into the marketplace ... they're prohibiting us from buying the only economically sensible product that we would want, catastrophic insurance...
"Congress prohibits anyone over 30 from buying any kind of catastrophic insurance. And the reason they do that is because they needed this massive subsidy."