WASHINGTON Thu, Dec 8 2011 (Reuters) — The Supreme Court last week set the schedule for briefs to be filed ahead of hearing arguments in late March over President Obama's sweeping health care overhaul law.

The high court agreed to a proposal by the three main parties in the legal battle and by two attorneys who have been appointed to argue certain positions.

In a brief order, the court for the most part required that the first set of briefs will be due starting in early January, the other side will file their briefs in February and final reply briefs will be submitted in early March.

The court on November 14 agreed to hear an Obama administration appeal defending the law and urging it be upheld as well as two separate appeals by 26 states and an independent business group challenging the law and urging it be struck down.

The court agreed to consider the following four separate questions:

- whether the U.S. Congress overstepped its powers by requiring all Americans to buy health insurance by 2014 or pay a penalty, a provision known as the individual mandate.

- whether the rest of the law can survive if the mandate is struck down.

- whether challenges to the mandate must wait until after it takes effect in 2014.

- and whether Congress improperly coerced the states to expand the Medicaid program that provides health care to the poor and the disabled.

The Supreme Court cases are National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius, No. 11-393; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services v. Florida, No. 11-398; and Florida v. Department of Health and Human Services, No. 11-400.

(Reporting by James Vicini; editing by Todd Eastham)

© 2010 Thomson Reuters. Click for Restrictions.

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