A suit brought by Mary Brown intends to force the issue of whether or not all Americans should be covered by health insurance in what may become a landmark case before the U.S. Supreme Court. Now that the health care reform bill has been signed into law, and barring successful challenges such as Brown’s, the law goes into effect fully in 2014, Mary Brown is testing whether everyone in America have to have health insurance. What about people who may not be able to pay for health insurance, should they be forced to purchase it? Mary Brown is suing due to the 2010 health care reform law’s mandate that everyone should have to purchase health insurance in the U.S., or pay a penalty, and her case is slated to be heard before the U.S. Supreme Court this month. According to an Editorial in the March 11 LA Times, Mary Brown claims, "the law's insurance mandate is unconstitutional and that the rest of the act should be thrown out with it."
Ironically, the Browns’ current financial situation—she and her husband have lost their business and, according to the LA Times, have approximately $60,000 in consumer debt, as well as more than $4,000 in unpaid health care bills—may make a case for the exact opposite. Mary Brown, it would seem, according to the LA Times, is now "an exemplar of a problem the new law was designed to address."
The law was originally designed to mitigate situations such as the Browns are experiencing—if they had health insurance, perhaps the unpaid health care bills at least would be covered. "Uninsured and underinsured Americans rack up about $61 billion in medical bills every year that they cannot afford, forcing doctors and hospitals to pass those costs on to federal taxpayers and those patients who can pay their bills", according to the LA Times piece.
One intended goal of the health care reform law was to reduce the dollar amount of uncompensated care from $61 billion to around $25 billion and to balance the law's insurance reforms–which keep companies from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions and from making their policies too expensive for people to be able to purchase. But, in order to keep people from obtaining health care insurance when they know they are ill and then dropping the coverage when they become healthy again, Congress required all adult Americans to maintain health insurance coverage or pay a tax penalty.
Brown believes that the law would not work the way it was intended if the mandate were scrapped. Others believe that the health care reform law’s provisions are valuable no matter what happens to the mandate. While this debate rages, hospital costs continue to rise, doctors and health insurance companies continue to succeed financially, even in a lousy economy… and insurance companies still find a way to deny people health care insurance due to pre-existing conditions—they now say simply, "you don’t qualify due to medical reasons." The current system is broken, almost all agree. Will ObamaCare make it better, or fix it? If the Supreme Court strikes down the law, we may never know.