In March 2010, Barack Obama succeeded in reforming the health care system. The goal was not to establish universal coverage of care, like in Canada, but to make insurance accessible to as many people as possible. He had to settle for the “individual mandate,” which obliges Americans to join a health insurance plan or face a financial penalty. The President wanted Congress to reach a bipartisan consensus, but both sides tore into each other instead. Twenty-six governors from Republican states brought a Supreme Court action contesting the constitutionality of the individual mandate. However, in June 2012, the Court essentially ruled in favour of the Obama administration.

Those on the left deplore the watered-down reform that will profit insurance companies and still leaves too many Americans uninsured.

Those on the right denounce the reform as a costly measure that goes against the Constitution.

By the numbers
  • 1,083billion
    cost of the reform by 2021
  • 30million
    number of additional Americans who will be covered by 2016
  • 230billion
    Impact of cancelling the reform: increasing the deficit by
    Source : Congressionnal Budget Office (March 2012)
A divisive reform
  • 47% disapprove of the reform while 36% support it
  • 85% support the fact that insurance companies can no longer invoke pre-existing conditions
  • 51% are against mandatory insurance
  • 48% say they don't understand what the reform will change for them

- New York Times poll (March 2012)

© Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Hundreds of demonstrators who oppose health care reform held a rally August 14, 2009 in downtown San Francisco. (San Francisco, August 14, 2009)

© Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Thousands of people from across the country protest the health care bill at the West Front of the U.S. Capitol November 5, 2009 in Washington, DC. (Washington, November 5, 2009)

© John Moore/Getty Images
Conservatives protest health care reform on December 15, 2009 in Washington, DC. (Washington, December 15, 2009)

© John Moore/Getty Images
Demonstrators, many bused in from around the country, protested next to the Capitol building December 15, 2009 in Washington, DC. (Washington, December 15, 2009)

© Win McNamee/Getty Images
March 9, 2010 in Washington, DC, supporters of national health care legislation demonstrate outside the Ritz-Carlton Hotel as America's Health Insurance Plans annual policy conference took place inside. (Washington, 9 mars 2010)

Should society let a man without health insurance die?

“Yes! ” shouts the crowd at a Tea Party debate (YouTube, September 2010)

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  • Health Care Reform U.S. President Barack Obama's health care plan passed this evening in the U.S. House of Representatives by a vote of 219 to 212.