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Last updated at 15:03 BST, Tuesday, 27 March 2012

US healthcare on a knife edge

Summary

27 March 2012

President Barack Obama's healthcare reforms reaches the Supreme Court this week, as the nine most senior judges in the land hear three days of argument over whether or not the reforms are constitutional. This is one of the biggest cases to come before the Supreme Court in recent times.

Reporter

Paul Adams

US Supreme Court in Washington

People wait in line to watch the arguments on President Obama's healthcare legislation

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Barack Obama's healthcare reforms, passed almost exactly two years ago, remain one of the most contentious aspects of his presidency. The bill was passed in the teeth of vociferous opposition from the Republican Party. Polls suggest that public opinion remains sharply divided.

A key provision that individual citizens should either buy health insurance or pay a penalty - the so-called individual mandate - has already been the subject of numerous legal challenges across the country. It was almost inevitable that the issue would ultimately reach the highest court in the land.

The nine justices who make up the Supreme Court, five of them regarded as conservatives, will spend a highly unusual three days hearing oral arguments. They'll issue their findings in the summer, just as this year's presidential election campaign swings into full gear. The impact on the campaign of a ruling on such an important political issue could be enormous.

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Vocabulary

contentious

controversial

aspects

parts, features

in the teeth of vociferous opposition

despite very loud and outspoken criticism

sharply divided

split into groups that disagree strongly

provision

clause in a legal document

mandate

order, rule

numerous

many

justices

judges

oral

spoken

swings into full gear

gathers pace

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