The Question: Is the individual mandate constitutional?

Of the four questions the Supreme Court is considering, this is the big one. The Affordable Care Act requires all Americans to purchase health insurance or pay a penalty. If your annual income is below a certain level–about $92,000 for a family of four– the government will provide subsidies or tax credits to help you. The primary legal question is this: does Congress have the authority under the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution to require Americans to purchase a product, in this case health insurance? Those in favor say yes–Congress can both regulate interstate commerce and legislate taxes. Those opposed say this is the first time Congress has required Americans to purchase a product and it’s unconstitutional.

As she left the hearings, NPR’s Nina Totenberg tweeted, “The government had a hard time. And if they win, they win narrowly. I don’t think you can call this.”

You can listen to the complete oral arguments here:

Or read on for the complete transcript:

The audio and transcript from yesterday’s oral arguments can be found here.


Lisa Aliferis

Lisa Aliferis is the founding editor of KQED's State of Health blog. Since 2011, she's been writing stories and editing them for the site. Before taking up blogging, she toiled for many years producing health stories for television, including Dateline NBC and San Francisco's CBS affiliate, KPIX-TV. She also wrote up a handy guide to the Affordable Care Act, especially for Californians. You can follow her on Twitter: @laliferis

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