Supreme Court to hear challenge to reform law

The long-anticipated Supreme Court showdown over the health reform law will occur next year, during the heat of the 2012 presidential campaign.

The court announced Monday that it would hear a challenge to the 2010 law, which is President Obama’s signature legislative achievement.

Oral arguments are set for March and a decision is expected to be rendered in late June.

While several reform-related challenges have wound through lower courts, the justices will hear the case that has been mounted by 26 states, including Georgia.

In that case, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta struck down the law’s requirement for most individuals to purchase health insurance. The 2-1 ruling, though, also upheld the rest of the legislation, including a vast expansion of the Medicaid program that covers the poor and people with disabilities.

Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens, who opposes the reform law, issued a statement Monday applauding the Supreme Court’s decision to hear the case.

“Today’s act by the Supreme Court is a crucial step in our long fight to reign in the federal government’s unconstitutional overreach into the health care marketplace and to restore individual liberty when it comes to personal decisions about health care,’’ Olens said in the statement.

The case is expected to define the legacy of the John Roberts court.

“This is going to be the most heavily covered Supreme Court case in history, even more so than Bush v. Gore, because that was so compressed,” Washington lawyer Thomas Goldstein, who argues regularly at the court, told USA Today. He was referring to the 2000 presidential election dispute that lasted just over a month.

“This will run from today until the summer,” Goldstein said.

The court’s order Monday allotted five and a half hours for arguments. Usually, a dispute gets one hour, USA Today reported.

It will be riveting testimony.

Here are the New York Times and Associated Press reports on the upcoming battle.