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healthcare reform

As election day approaches, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney continue to reach for issues each other can use as a stick to beat his opponent.

Find out where rivals Barack Obama and Mitt Romney stand on each of the key issues ahead of the debate and where the biggest differences could emerge.

1. Economy

Barack Obama

Signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, known as the stimulus, a $768 billion package of tax cuts and investment in education, infrastructure, energy research, health, and other programmes. Backed a bailout of the US auto industry; signed trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea.

Mitt Romney

Plan centres on tax cuts, repeal of Barack Obama’s 2010 healthcare reform law and repeal of 2010 Wall Street and banking regulations, and in general the reduction of other regulations he says stifle economic growth. Opposed the auto industry bailout; proposes to reduce federal spending significantly but gives few details about which programmes he would cut.

2. Taxes

Barack Obama

Has cut effective taxes for most Americans; would repeal Bush-era tax cuts for households making more than $250,000 a year; proposes the “Buffet rule” named for billionaire Warren Buffet, which would increase the effective tax rate paid by millionaires.

Mitt Romney

Would make permanent all Bush-era tax cuts, further cut individual income tax rates, eliminate taxes on investment income, repeal the estate tax, and reduce the corporate income tax rate. According to the non-partisan Tax Policy Center, taxpayers at high income levels would see the greatest benefit. Would make up the revenue by closing unspecified tax loopholes.

3. Iran

Barack Obama

Says he is determined to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon; opposes a near-term military strike by US or Israel on Iran’s nuclear facilities; emphasizes need for a diplomatic solution but warns “that window is closing” and has said “all options are at the table”; signed new sanctions against Iran’s central bank, oil revenues and financial system.

Mitt Romney

Says it is unacceptable for Iran to possess a nuclear weapon; says military action “remains on the table” and analysts say he presents a clearer military threat to Iran; would send Navy ships to patrol the Mediterranean and Persian Gulf; calls for more sanctions; would publicly back Iranian opposition groups.

4. National security and war

Barack Obama

Has killed much of al-Qaeda’s leadership, including Osama Bin Laden; pulled US troops out of Iraq; agreed to a $487 million reduction in defence spending over 10 years with congressional Republicans.

Mitt Romney

Would spend heavily on military hardware and invest in missile defence, adding an estimated $100 billion to the Pentagon’s budget, while reducing the civilian defence bureaucracy.

5. Afghanistan

Barack Obama

Initially increased the number of troops in Afghanistan; has begun a draw-down of US troops with the combat mission to end by 2014.

Mitt Romney

Has said his “goal” would be “a successful transition to Afghan security forces by the end of 2014” but pledges to review withdrawal plans and base them “on conditions on the ground as assessed by our military commanders”

6. Healthcare

Barack Obama

Vast 2010 healthcare reform law aims for universal health insurance coverage by requiring individuals who are not otherwise covered to purchase insurance, while restricting insurers’ ability to deny coverage based on pre-existing ailments. The law offers states grants to increase enrolment of poor people in the Medicaid public insurance programme.

Mitt Romney

Would seek repeal of Barack Obama’s health law, though it is modeled on a law he signed in Massachusetts; would return most health policy to the states; would limit doctor malpractice lawsuits; would encourage individuals without insurance to buy it on the private market, including by purchasing it in other states with lighter coverage requirements and lower costs

7. Illegal immigration

Barack Obama

Used executive power to grant legal status to certain young illegal immigrants, bypassing Republicans in Congress. Has dramatically increased deportations of illegal immigrants.

Mitt Romney

Criticizes Barack Obama’s “stopgap” measure on young illegal immigrants but does not say whether he would overturn it. Says the US should encourage migrants to “self-deport” by making life hard for them.

8. Abortion

Barack Obama

Supports abortion rights; appointed two Supreme Court justices who appear to favor abortion rights.

Mitt Romney

Says “My presidency will be a pro-life presidency”, though he supported abortion rights when he was running for governor Massachusetts in 2002. Supports overturning the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court ruling legalizing abortion and allowing states to decide whether abortion should be legal; would strip federal funding from Planned Parenthood women’s health clinics.

9. Energy

Barack Obama

Supports investment in clean energy such as wind turbines and advanced car batteries; tightened car fuel efficiency and emissions standards; blocked development of the Keystone oil pipeline to move oil sands crude from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, saying the US had not had sufficient time to judge its environmental impact.

Mitt Romney

Would ease regulations hindering coal-burning power plants, oil exploration and nuclear power plant construction; would encourage drilling for oil in the Atlantic and Pacific outer continental shelves; proposes to ease regulations. Pledges to build the Keystone pipeline.

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The US Supreme Court has ruled that President Barack Obama’s landmark healthcare reform (ObamaCare) act is constitutional.

The court upheld a core requirement known as the “individual mandate” that Americans buy insurance or pay a fine.

Of the nine justices on the bench, Chief Justice John Roberts’ vote was decisive in the Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling in favor of the law.

The ruling comes months before the US election, with Republicans vowing to push for a repeal of the bill.

Healthcare is a deeply polarizing issue in the US and Republicans strongly opposed Barack Obama’s legislation.

The state of Florida, along with 12 other states, filed a legal challenge to the bill minutes after Barack Obama signed The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) into law in March 2010.

They were later joined by 13 more states, the National Federation of Independent Businesses and several individuals.

The US Supreme Court has ruled that President Barack Obama's landmark healthcare reform (ObamaCare) act is constitutional

The US Supreme Court has ruled that President Barack Obama's landmark healthcare reform (ObamaCare) act is constitutional

Speaking afterwards, President Barack Obama called the court’s decision a victory for the country, saying people would not need to “hang their fortunes on chance” or fear financial ruin if they became sick.

Barack Obama said it was “time to move forward”, and that he would continue to implement and improve the healthcare law.

He added: “We will be better off because we had the courage to pass this law.”

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said the healthcare bill was “bad law yesterday, it’s bad law today”.

“This is a time of choice for the American people. If we’re going get rid of ObamaCare we’re going to have to replace President Obama. My mission is to make sure we do exactly that.”

He called “ObamaCare” a tax rise that would add to the national debt, a “job-killer”, and said it would put the federal government “between you and your doctor”.

Congressional leaders also responded quickly to the verdict. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, said: “We’ve passed plenty of terrible laws around here that were constitutional.”

On the Senate floor, he said the only way to fix the law was “full repeal”.

Meanwhile, the Senate’s Democratic majority leader, Harry Reid, disagreed: “Now that this matter is settled, let’s move on to other things. Like jobs.”

The mandate was eventually upheld by the justices, citing the taxation powers granted to Congress by the US constitution.

Chief Justice John Roberts said: “We do not consider whether the Act embodies sound policies. That judgment is entrusted to the Nation’s elected leaders.

“We ask only whether Congress has the power under the Constitution to enact the challenged provisions.”

A majority of justices agreed that the penalty individuals must pay if they refuse to buy health insurance falls within Congress’ power to levy taxes, upholding the “individual mandate”.

“The mandate can be regarded as establishing a condition – not owning health insurance – that triggers a tax – the required payment to IRS,” Justice John Roberts wrote.

The government’s main argument was that the law was legal under Congress’ ability to regulate “interstate commerce” – but a majority of justices did not agree with this view.

Four dissenting justices said that limits on the power of Congress to regulate commerce and raise taxes “cannot be such as will enable the Federal Government to regulate all private conduct and to compel the States to function as administrators of federal programs.”

“That clear principle carries the day here,” they added.

In an opinion written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, the dissenting justices went further, to say: “In our view, the entire Act before us is invalid in its entirety.”

While the court described the penalty as a tax, it did not invoke a law that could have prevented the justices from ruling on the case.

Under a law called the Anti-Injunction Act, taxes cannot be legally challenged until after they have been levied. This could have delayed a verdict till 2015 – after the “individual mandate” comes into effect and the first round of penalties have been paid.

They were also not required to rule on the issue of “severability”, which would determine whether other parts of the healthcare law could stand even if the mandate was struck down.

In addition to the individual mandate, the Supreme Court was asked consider another part of the law that deals with the expansion of Medicaid, a government healthcare programme for low-income citizens.

The court ruled to limit that provision but did not strike it down altogether, saying Congress could place conditions on the use of federal funds.

“What Congress is not free to do is to penalize States that choose not to participate in that new program by taking away their existing Medicaid funding,” the Supreme Court’s opinion said.


Barack Obama’s wide-ranging healthcare reform bill, which is seen as a key achievement of his presidency, is facing its moment of judgement in the US Supreme Court.

The law, dubbed ObamaCare, passed in 2010, requires all Americans to obtain health insurance or face a penalty fine.

But conservative opponents of the president say that “mandate” is illegal under the terms of the US constitution.

The justices are expected to rule on Thursday, and could cut the mandate or strike down the whole law.

The debate over healthcare is a fiercely polarizing issue in the US, and a verdict either way is expected to have a major impact on the race for the White House.

Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, are just five months away from the presidential election.

The president maintains a slender lead in some polls, but is facing a stiff challenge from Mitt Romney and conservative opponents, amid a rocky economic outlook.

ObamaCare, passed in 2010, requires all Americans to obtain health insurance or face a penalty fine

ObamaCare, passed in 2010, requires all Americans to obtain health insurance or face a penalty fine

Mitt Romney told a rally near Washington DC on Wednesday that if the Supreme Court did not quash the law he would “repeal and replace” the bill if he won the White House.

The bitter debate over the legislation has touched such partisan issues as state and individual rights, federal deficits, end-of-life care, and abortion and contraception funding.

The nine-member Supreme Court has several options.

It could decide that it is too early to rule on the case, as many of the law’s provisions – including the mandate to buy health insurance – do not come into force until 2014.

It could also dismiss the challenge to the mandate on a technicality, ruling that the penalty constitutes a tax lawfully imposed by Congress. Few observers expect the court to choose this option.

The meat of the case concerns the challenge to the individual mandate, which the justices could decide oversteps Congress’ right to regulate interstate commerce.

Analysts say that questioning from several conservative justices during oral arguments at the court in March revealed a deep level skepticism on the bench.

The court could decide to strike down the mandate and send the bill back to Congress to find a way to make the rest of it work. It could also overturn the entire law, ruling that the need to buy health insurance is integral to the legislation.

The Supreme Court is composed of nine justices, five seen as conservatives and four as liberals. It has delivered several divisive wafer-thin majority rulings in recent years, prompting criticism from liberals.

A 5-4 ruling in 2010 known as Citizens United changed campaign finance laws in the US to allow unrestricted fund-raising by independent groups not directly affiliated with candidates.

A recent study by the Pew Research Center found public approval of the court at its lowest level since records began in 1987.

The healthcare law – officially known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, but commonly dubbed ObamaCare by opponents – was passed in 2009 without a single Republican vote in Congress, and signed into law by President Obama in June 2010.

Polls suggest many Americans would be pleased to see the law overturned.

However, individual elements of the bill are popular, and some people are opposed because they do not think it goes far enough.

The bill has already enabled millions of Americans aged under 26 to obtain health insurance by staying on their parents’ coverage for longer than previously allowed.

Patients with pre-existing medical conditions have also been able to obtain health insurance since the passage of the law.


Thousands of Romanians in Bucharest and other cities staged a third straight day of protests on Saturday, as anger over a healthcare reform bill widened into protest against government austerity measures.

More than 1,000 protesters rallied in Bucharest’s main University Square, blocking traffic. After seven hours, they refused to leave, and scuffled several times with riot police who then used tear gas.

Five police officers sustained injuries after they were hit by stones, local media reports said. The ambulance service said more than 20 people had been treated for injuries. Protesters yelled anti-government slogans and called for early elections. 29 protesters have been arrested, according to riot police.

More than 1,000 protesters rallied in Bucharest's main University Square, blocking traffic

More than 1,000 protesters rallied in Bucharest's main University Square, blocking traffic

The government pulled its draft healthcare reform bill on Friday after street protests and criticism, but that has failed to assuage the anger of crowds, who called on Saturday for early elections and the resignation of President Traian Basescu.

Protesters chanted and carried banners that said “Stop thievery”, “You lied to us and robbed us” and “Leave and let us be”. Some scuffled with riot police in the capital.

“It is important for protesters to understand that we are not against them, we are here to protect them and … make sure the law is respected,” said Georgian Enache, spokesman for Bucharest riot police, who added he didn’t have estimates as to how many protesters had gathered in downtown Bucharest.

Protests started on Thursday in support of Deputy Health Minister Raed Arafat, who resigned this week after criticizing the draft healthcare reform bill and being confronted by President Traian Basescu, a supporter of the project.

Traian Basescu told Romania’s centrist coalition government to pull the bill late on Friday. Opponents said the bill lacked detail on private sector involvement and risked further damaging the outdated medical system.

Saturday’s protests expanded from support for Raed Arafat to general discontent with the government’s unpopular austerity measures, taken under an aid deal led by the International Monetary Fund to shore up public finances and prop up the leu currency. In 2010, the government cut salaries in the public sector by 25 percent and raised other taxes.

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