|MARK SHERMAN and JESSE J. HOLLAND, Associated Press|
Arguments at the high court focused on whether the mandate for virtually every American to have insurance "is a step beyond what our cases allow," in the words of Justice
But Kennedy, who is often the swing vote on cases that divide the justices along ideological lines, also said he recognized the magnitude of the nation's health care problem and seemed to suggest that it would require a comprehensive solution.
He and Chief Justice
The congressional requirement to buy health care insurance is the linchpin of the law's aim to get medical insurance to an additional 30 million people, at a reasonable cost to private insurers and state governments. Virtually every American will be affected by the court's decision on the law's constitutionality.
Audio for Tuesday's court argument can be found at: http://apne.ws/Hft6z3
The biggest issue, to which the justices returned repeatedly during two hours of arguments in a packed courtroom, was whether the government can force people to buy insurance. And if so, could other mandates _ to buy broccoli, burial insurance and cellphones, for example _ be far behind?
"Purchase insurance in this case, something else in the next case," Roberts said.
Kennedy at one point said that allowing the government mandate would "change the relationship" between the government and U.S. citizens.
"Do you not have a heavy burden of justification to show authority under the Constitution" for the individual mandate? asked Kennedy.
At another point, however, he also acknowledged the complexity of resolving the issue of paying for America's health care needs.
"I think it is true that if most questions in life are matters of degree ... the young person who is uninsured is uniquely proximately very close to affecting the rates of insurance and the costs of providing medical care in a way that is not true in other industries. That's my concern in the case," Kennedy said.
He said the requirement would force people, especially those who are young and healthy, to buy a product they don't want.