(CBS/AP) RICHMOND, Va. - You may not have heard of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, but you probably want to hear what it's going to say about the future of health care.
This week, a three-judge panel began the tough business of figuring out if his health care plan is constitutional.
They are looking at two lawsuits, one filed by Virginia Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli and the other by Liberty University. Both had argued that the health care plan has no business being law. The state of Virginia said it's unconstituationl to force the uninsured to buy insurance. Liberty fretted that the law interferes with their business.
The judges were chosen randomly from a pool of 14, but the three that were picked could swing towards President Obama.
"This was certainly a favorable draw for the government," said Kevin Walsh, an assistant professor of law at the University of Richmond who attended the hearings.
Obama's healthcare plan has been nothing if not controversial. Many conservatives believe it is an unaffordable expansion of the government. Many liberals believe it didn't go far enough to provide care for the poor and protection from insurance companies.
The core of the plan makes it easier to get Medicaid, the government's health program for low income people; makes it harder for insurance companies to refuse enrollees for pre-existing conditions and tries to create markets for uninsured individuals to buy insurance at a reasonable cost.
The Congressional Budget Office has said the plan would actually save money, potentially reducing the deficit by more than $1 trillion over a decade, but that assertion has come under sharp attack from conservatives.
In all, 31 lawsuits have been filed challenging the law, and nine of those have been appealed, but the two Virginia cases are the first to reach the argument stage in a federal appeals court. The judges are expected to rule within a few weeks, but all parties expect this fight to be finished in the Supreme Court.