US Supreme Court hears challenge to Obama healthcare law



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ABSTRACTBBC News - US Supreme Court hears challenge to Obama healthcare law Accessibility links Skip to content Skip to local navigation Accessibility Help bbc.co.uk navigation News Sport Weather Travel iPlayer TV Radio More Search term: US & Canada Home US & Canada Latin America UK Africa Asia Europe Mid-East Business Health Sci/Environment Tech Entertainment Video US Election 2012 26 March 2012 Last updated at 21:08 ET Share this page Delicious Digg Facebook reddit StumbleUpon Twitter Email Print US Supreme Court hears challenge to Obama healthcare law   Please turn on JavaScript. Media requires JavaScript to play. Rival demonstrators at the Supreme Court made their voices heard as the arguments began. Continue reading the main story Related Stories Q&A: Supreme Court healthcare case In pictures: Supreme Court weighs healthcare Supreme Court to judge health law The US Supreme Court has finished the first day of a landmark hearing on the constitutionality of President Barack Obama's signature healthcare reform. Twenty-six US states are challenging the 2010 law, which greatly expands access to health insurance but is called unconstitutional by critics. They say the requirement to buy insurance intrudes on civil liberties. The court will hear three days of argument, with a ruling expected during June - in the thick of election season. Monday's hearing focused on whether the judges actually had the power to rule on the case. The justices spent 90 minutes actively questioning lawyers about an obscure 19th-century piece of legislation - the 1867 Anti-Injunction Act - which bars legal challenges to any tax that has not yet been collected. Continue reading the main story Supreme Court schedule Monday: Can the court legally hear the case? Tuesday: Is the requirement to purchase health insurance legal? Wednesday: Could the rest of the law survive with the requirement struck down? Wednesday: Is the expansion of Medicaid constitutional? The healthcare act requires most people to buy health insurance or pay a penalty. If the justices define that penalty as a tax, they could rule that the Anti-Injunction Act prevents the Supreme Court from making a ruling on the matter at this point in time. The Washington DC court, which holds about 400 people, was packed with lawmakers, senior Obama administration officials and members of the public on Monday. People had been camping outside the white marble building since Friday. Controversial mandate The nine Supreme Court justices, five of them appointed by Republican presidents and four by Democrats, have allotted six hours of argument - the longest in decades - for the case. The court's proceedings are not televised, but daily audio recordings and transcripts are being made available. Continue reading the main story Analysis Paul Adams BBC News, Washington It's been almost exactly two years since President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law. But if anyone thought the titanic struggle that accompanied its passage through Congress would end with a stroke of the president's pen, they were sorely mistaken. Even as the law's early provisions have come into effect - to general approbation - the overall law remains profoundly contentious. It's become a poster child for everything Republicans say is wrong about Barack Obama's style of government. Opponents of the act have managed to frame the debate over "Obamacare" (they also changed its name) into one about constitutional fidelity, religious freedom and the size of government. The law's actual purpose - to extend insurance coverage and put an end to discrimination based on pre-existing conditions or ability to pay - sometimes seem to have been forgotten. From the start, it was almost inevitable that the bill - and specifically the individual mandate - would end up being litigated before the Supreme Court. What the nine justices conclude, a few months before a presidential election in which healthcare remains a hot topic, could have an enormous impact. It is one of the most politically explosive cases since the 2000 election wrangle that saw the White House awarded to Republican George W Bush over Democrat Al Gore, or the hearings on the 1974 Watergate tapes that led to President Richard Nixon's resignation. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, passed in March 2010, has been the divisive centrepiece of President Obama's term in office. If upheld, the law would forbid insurance companies from denying coverage because of pre-existing medical conditions. It would also limit how much they can charge older people. But the most controversial aspect of the law is its core requirement that most people buy health insurance or pay a tax penalty. The healthcare law's insurance mandate does not begin until 2014, and those who flout the requirement to have insurance would not face a penalty until the following year. Monday's hearing foc.......