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U.S. Supreme Court deliberates healthcare overhaul

(Xinhua)

09:25, March 27, 2012

WASHINGTON, March 26 (Xinhua) -- U.S. Supreme Court on Monday began three-day oral arguments in the landmark case involving the Affordable Care Act, the signature healthcare overhaul of President Barack Obama, and the first day is centered on whether it should delay ruling until the law takes effect in 2014.

The court opened the case with a 90-minute hearing, with the nine justices listening to arguments on whether they have jurisdiction in the case, or should wait until the law has fully entered into force after 2014 to rule on it.

At the center of the case is the mandate that people buy health insurance or face penalty, and justices heard arguments whether that penalty is a tax. Congress has constitution power to levy a tax.

As the arguments ended, the justices are yet to make a decision, with some media reports saying the court is leaning towards making a decision this year, while others argue they are likely to delay a ruling.

A ruling is not expected until June, but if the court decides it does not have jurisdiction, any action on the law would come at least until 2015. However, both the Obama administration and the challengers - 26 states and a small business group - want the court to go ahead and decide on its constitutionality this year.

As the presidential election gets underway, the healthcare law is a hot issue in the campaign, as Republicans argue that forcing people to buy health insurance is unconstitutional, while the Democrats argue the mandate could bring down the cost of insurance. The ruling of the case could have big impact on the election.

One of the Republican candidates, Rick Santorum, showed up on Monday at the steps of the Supreme Court, and used the opportunity to cast Mitt Romney, the frontrunner in the race, as the worst candidate to face Obama in the healthcare debate.

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