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Healthcare Reform: is individual mandate a tax or not?

U.S. Supreme Court Justices will be listening to healthcare reform arguments, for a second day, to consider a key constitutional issue: whether the federal government can compel Americans to buy health insurance, or pay a fine or a tax.

The case seems to be more about taxes than healthcare, according to an NPR report. NPR health policy correspondent Julie Rovner reported that today the court would hear “…whether Congress is within its constitutional authority in deciding to impose the part of the law called the individual mandate. And that’s the part of the law that requires, starting in 2014, that most Americans either have health insurance or else pay this penalty….”

Claiming that the federal government does have the power to impose a penalty comes from Congress’ broad taxing power, according to Fox News. Naming the fine as a ‘tax’ allows an easier defense for the mandate because Congress’ power to levy taxes would not be much of a problem. A bigger issue is its authority to require people to force people to buy something like health insurance.

The government believes Congress does have the authority to pass the law under the Commerce Clause, the Necessary and Proper Clause and its own taxing power.

A decision is expected to be reached by June.