Health care debate: Supreme Court hears arguments on insurance requirement


There was high drama outside the high court and inside as the Supreme Court justices examined the key question in this historic health care case: Is the individual mandate constitutional? The argument didn't appear to go well for the Obama administration and its supporters, even swing vote Justice Anthony Kennedy seemed skeptical.

"The government is saying that the federal government has a duty to tell the individual citizen that it must act, and that is different from what we have in previous cases and that changes the relationship of the federal government to the individual in the very fundamental way," Kennedy said.

Though Chief Justice John Roberts was tough on both sides, giving some hope he might be persuaded to side with the administration on the mandate question, the provision requiring most Americans to have health insurance or pay a penalty.

The more conservative justices also posed multiple hypotheticals, testing the boundaries of the sweeping health care overhaul.

"Everybody has to exercise, because there's no doubt that lack of exercise causes illness, and that causes health care costs to go up. So the federal government says everybody has to join an exercise club," Justice Antonin Scalia said.

The Obama administration's top lawyer before the high court, Donald Verrilli, did find a sympathetic ear from the four more liberal justices, all indicating Congress acted within its power in crafting the law.

Oral arguments wrap up Wednesday, when the justices consider whether the health care law could stand -- if the individual mandate is thrown out.

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