'The People' stage their own healthcare debate

Protesters outside the US Supreme Court, 26 March 2012 Rival groups are protesting outside the Supreme Court as it holds a hearing over healthcare reform

On the steps of the Supreme Court it's The People v The People. The columns of the classical court are the backdrop to rival protests, who break from time to time from chanting and singing, to argue.

A Church group, backing Obama's changes to America's healthcare system sing "Let it shine".

A group of Tea Party supporters circulate, handing out signs reading "Don't trust the liberal media".

Five men and women stand stock still, their mouths gagged with tape marked "life". I'm not sure which side they're on.

As the groups mingle, heated but pretty good-natured debates erupt. For many this is about the future direction of their country.

"If you want to know what America is going to be like look to California, and what the idiots out there are doing, with a lot of government in our lives, government telling us how to live our lives," says a thin-faced woman wearing a red headband, and holding a Tea Party banner.

"Do you have Medicare?" heckles an opponent.

"No, I have my own insurance."

Tea Party Patriots outside the US Supreme Court, 26 March 2012 Tea Party supporters oppose President Obama's reforms

If you are over 65 you have Medicare," he replies.

"We pay for that don't we?" shouts a young man.

"Are you over 65? You can't buy your own insurance?" insists the heckler.

"I look like I'm 45," says the woman, clearly for the moment more bothered by the hecklers' ungallant assumptions than his politics.

The young man who shouted out is Matthew Perdie. He has walked across America making his argument.

He tells me: "It is an attack on freedom, for sure."

He's talking about the big issue before the Supreme Court. The centrepiece of Obama's changes to the healthcare system is what's called "the individual mandate".

This means that Americans have to buy health insurance, just as in most countries you have to have car insurance if you drive.

The opponents say the government can't require people to buy services, any more than they can make them buy bananas.

Matthew Perdie says: "Its unconstitutional. You are forcing the taxpayers and individuals to pay for something against their own will, forcing them to comply with a contract that they never personally signed off on. This the biggest attack on our freedom to date."

Doctors wearing white coats rally outside the US Supreme Court, 26 March 2012

A couple of doctors in white housecoats stand nearby, holding banners saying "protect the law". De Trudy Singzin of the National Physicians Alliance says: "The Affordable Health Care Act is one of the most important for healthcare in our country just to move us forward. What is un-American is letting people die because they don't have health insurance."

Dr Minissha Shawarma adds: "Absolutely. I mean to say this is against their freedom! I would like to know what's the loss of freedom when they have better healthcare. This is for their freedom... Healthcare is a right not a privilege".

The protesters are later joined by Rick Santorum, who is making repealing healthcare a centrepiece of his election campaign. He argues that because Mitt Romney had a similar scheme in Massachusetts he should not be the Republican candidate.

"There is one candidate who is uniquely disqualified to make the case," said Mr Santorum. "It is the reason I am here and he is not.

"It is the reason I talk about Obama and the economy and the impacts on our freedoms and Mitt Romney does not".

Nevertheless these arguments on the steps of the Supreme Court could be central in the presidential election. But perhaps less so, if those inside the court make a firm ruling in June.

If they ruled this central plank of President Obama's healthcare changes is illegal, it would have a big impact. Obama's plan may not be that popular but it still will be a centrepiece of his campaign. Exhibit A, if you will, that he has changed America profoundly and for the better.

A defeat would severely demoralise Democrats and make them wonder if they can ever achieve universal healthcare in the USA.

Their only solace would be that it would steal the Republicans' thunder, and rob them of what many consider a potent weapon.

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  • rate this

    Comment number 217.

    "everybody needs healthcare, asked Antonin Scalia, what about food? Would this mandate allow the government to require that all Americans buy healthful foodstuffs, such as broccoli? [...]

    What about burial services, asked Justice Samuel Alito? Everybody needs to be buried, eventually, or perhaps cremated." (BBC)

    And that just for starters.

  • rate this

    Comment number 216.

    The problem with Obama care is not the mandate. The problem is that is failed to reduce healthcare costs (although it does limit their rise a bit). The US spends more per person on medicare and medicaid than the UK does on the NHS. UK covers everyone. US can only manage to cover the elderley and extreme poor (about 1/3) with slightly more money per person. US system is ludicrously inefficient.

  • rate this

    Comment number 215.

    Unless you are going to let people who are sick die because they don't have the money or insurance to cover the cost of treatment then you have to have a system that requires everyone to have insurance. At the moment until Obamacare becomes law the US has about 30 million uninsured who are basically getting free healthcare at the expense of everyone else. It's not fair. Obama care will end it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 214.

    166 Andy Post Those who want a free ride must pay too. Fair's fair.
    PS There is a report that claims corruption and inefficiency are higher in many state governments than the US government. This means localization of health care could be worse. So, would you want health care a la Mississippi or Massachusetts?

  • Comment number 213.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 212.

    #208 "...for a moment I thought you were trying to reference insurance company sponsored docs as "evidence"- perhaps I should hit the sack."

    Before you do, consider that the government uses YOUR money to publish the information the government wants you to have. Compare with the insurance companies which use THEIR money to tell you what the government hasn't...:)

  • rate this

    Comment number 211.

    4 Hours ago
    "Incorrect: you HAVE a right to own a gun in Canada, Germany& UK"
    A quick check on wikipedia will tell you that the UK has some of the strictest gun laws in the world.

    Non sequitur. A fact that in some countries gun laws are stricter than in others doesn't mean that their citizens cannot obtain necessary permits and have no right to legally own firearms

  • rate this

    Comment number 210.


    "This is a beauty. A quick check on wikipedia will tell you that the UK has some of the strictest gun laws in the world..."

    Please mgoulden - don't go confusing the issue by introducing facts and evidence... ;-)

  • rate this

    Comment number 209.

    #125 "Healthcare, is a god given right."

    Must have been the 12th Commandment, right under the 11th which said "You will be paid in accordance to what you need, not what you produce."

  • rate this

    Comment number 208.

    Clarky I thought I was seeing things - for a moment I thought you were trying to reference insurance company sponsored docs as "evidence"- perhaps I should hit the sack.

    Come to think of it perhaps you should as well, ain't no point carrying on with that delusional gibberish - you can't be expected to lobby effectively when you're this tired.Anyway it's only half a day's pay...nighty night.

  • rate this

    Comment number 207.

    The disinformation spread by the anti-reformers is on a scale never before seen in US politics. How many thousands of times have FOX broadcasters, for instance, parroted the phrase "big government plan," when this reform allows works through private insurers?

    Repeal would strip 17 million children of insurance, but stealthy corporate interest have pumped this up as a "pro-life" position!

  • rate this

    Comment number 206.

    #200 & #202

    "...the boss of Goldman Sachs..." --- God told me so

    Bingo, Billy! You are getting the hang of it! I was going to congratulate you on having been able to go an entire day without mentioning the Chinese but the day is not yet over and I don't want to spoil you with premature praise...:)

    Now you have a list of things to watch out for, in the future.

  • rate this

    Comment number 205.

    201 McJakome
    “124 rodidog Where in the Constitution is your right to refuse to pay a tax, oh Southern lost causer [or Fed to collect it]?”

    You should read more carefully since I wrote that Congress DOES (not yeliing, simply ephasising) have the constitutional authority to tax and spend against your will. Btw, what's a Southern lost causer and why do you think I’m one?

  • rate this

    Comment number 204.

    "They would police your bedroom but want no part of your sickroom."
    How so? Unless you are abusing another in your bedroom I doubt anyone is interested much in what transpires there.Sickrooms, yes, actually folks are concerned with the rationing of care & euthanasia that may result under Obamacare.Thank you for bringing that up.

  • rate this

    Comment number 203.

    188 Andy Post
    “but boosting the immune response?”

    No Andy, by creating an imbalance in the microorganism that exist in and on your body. Mismanagement of antibiotics, which fight against bacteria, can provide space for fungi to grow out of control. Think yeast infections. Overuse of antibiotics can lead to resistance requiring more toxic and expensive treatment against infections.

  • rate this

    Comment number 202.

    Do you see how easily conditioned you have become?
    You mean like the hysterical hyperbole that some folk display when tax is mentioned or socialistic communistic BarrackHusseincare is mentioned and woe betide anyone who tries to interfere with my constitutional right to carry a bazooka at all times..

    Clarkers - you're having (another) off day - take a nap (worked for George Bush)

  • rate this

    Comment number 201.

    75 Suilerua It’s high time we got more civilized than that!
    100 AndreaNY I am pleased to have removed one -1, on this we agree completely. Our Founding Fathers warned against creating a professional political class [i.e. lawyers].
    124 rodidog Where in the Constitution is your right to refuse to pay a tax, oh Southern lost causer [or Fed to collect it]?

  • rate this

    Comment number 200.

    Yeah, it's like that time I told you about the boss of Goldman Sachs and the whole "doing God's work" thing.It seems to have worked a treat for them and they've got a colossal entitlement programme...

  • rate this

    Comment number 199.

    #195 "...the administrative costs of medicare being a fraction of the administrative costs of our present private care system."

    Are they?


    I suppose it depends on who you choose to believe...:)

  • rate this

    Comment number 198.

    72 Kingsley O “Oh, I get it. Republicans/Teaparty and their supporters ... claim to be prolife but tell you, you are your own in time of need.”

    That’s why some call them Pro-Life but only Pre-Birth. They would police your bedroom but want no part of your sickroom.


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