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Originally published Saturday, March 24, 2012 at 4:48 PM

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Q&A: How health-care case will unfold before Supreme Court

The Supreme Court will begin hearing arguments on Monday over President Obama's health-care overhaul, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, derisively labeled "Obamacare" by its opponents. A look at how the case will unfold before the court in question-and-answer form

The Associated Press

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WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court will begin hearing arguments on Monday over President Obama's health-care overhaul, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Here's a look at how the case will unfold before the court in question-and-answer form:

Q: What's this all about?

A: The Supreme Court is hearing a challenge to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Passed by Congress in 2010, its aim is to provide health insurance to more than 30 million previously uninsured Americans, while trying to restrain costs and prevent disruptions to the majority already with coverage.

Opponents say the law is unconstitutional; their chief argument is that Congress does not have the power to force unwilling Americans to buy health insurance or pay a fine.

Q: Which issues on which days?

A: Monday's 90-minute argument is about whether court action is premature because no one yet has paid a fine for not having health insurance.

Tuesday's two-hour argument will cover whether Congress overstepped its authority by requiring Americans to purchase health insurance starting in 2014 or pay a penalty.

Wednesday's arguments will be split into two parts: Justices will hear 90 minutes of debate in the morning over whether the rest of the law can take effect even if the health-insurance mandate is unconstitutional, and another hour in the afternoon over whether the law goes too far in coercing states to expand the federal-state Medicaid program for low-income people by threatening to cut off federal aid to states that don't comply.

Q: When will the justices rule?

A: The court could decide any time, but complex cases argued in the spring normally produce decisions near the end of the court's session, scheduled for late June.

Q: Who will be arguing for the law?

A: Solicitor General Donald Verrilli Jr. will argue for the government on Monday and Tuesday. Deputy Solicitor General Edwin Kneedler will present part of the government's case Wednesday, and Verrilli will do the rest. Information about Verrilli and the solicitor general's office can be found here: www.justice.gov/osg/index.html. A court-appointed lawyer, H. Bartow Farr III, will also argue that if government cannot require people to buy health insurance, all other provisions of the law can go into effect. Another court-appointed lawyer, Robert Long, will also argue the lawsuits challenging the insurance-purchase requirement are premature because the penalty has yet to be imposed.

Q: Who will be arguing against the law?

A: Representing Florida on Monday will be Washington, D.C., appellate lawyer Gregory Katsas. Former Solicitor General Paul Clement, now in private practice, will represent Florida on Tuesday and Wednesday. Former Justice Department attorney Michael Carvin will represent the National Federation of Independent Businesses.

Q: Can I go watch the arguments in person, on television or online?

A: The Supreme Court does not allow live television or radio broadcasts, so the only way Americans can see or hear the arguments live is to be inside the courtroom while lawyers and justices debate.

There are reserved seats for members of the public on a first-come, first-served basis, with some people allowed to stay for the entire argument while others have to leave and give their seats to the next people in line after 3-5 minutes.

The Supreme Court will make the audio recording of the arguments available later the same day on its website: www.supremecourt.gov/oral_arguments/argument_audio.aspx.

Q: What type of health care do the justices get and will they be affected by their ruling?

A: The justices participate in the same health-care plan as members of Congress and other federal workers. It is unlikely that whatever decision the court makes will substantially affect their personal health-care insurance.

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