WASHINGTON The Supreme Court refused on Monday to speed up a ruling on President Barack Obama's healthcare overhaul, his signature domestic achievement that has provoked a fierce political and legal battle.
The justices rejected the state of Virginia's request to invoke a rarely used procedure to bypass the normal appeals process and move quickly to a Supreme Court decision on the law's constitutionality.
More than half the states and many Republicans in Congress have sought to repeal the healthcare law. It dominated political debate in 2009 and galvanized Republicans who warned about its cost and said it was evidence of intrusive government power.
The widely expected decision to allow the sweeping law to be considered first by an appeals court under the regular process probably puts off any Supreme Court review until its 2011-12 term that begins in October.
Legal and financial analysts said a top court ruling on the healthcare law could come in 2012, when it is likely to figure as a major issue in congressional elections and Obama's re-election campaign.
The law, which aims to provide more than 30 million uninsured Americans with medical coverage, has wide ramifications for the health sector, affecting health insurers, drugmakers, device companies and hospitals.
In New York, Monday's decision had little market impact.
"Since we expected this decision and since it doesn't, in our view, have any implications to what the Supreme Court will eventually do, we believe there should not be a reaction to this news," Wells Fargo analyst Peter Costa said in a research report.
SUPREME COURT LOGICAL END POINT
Several federal judges around the nation have upheld the law but others have declared it unconstitutional on the grounds Congress overstepped its authority in requiring that Americans start buying health insurance in 2014 or pay a penalty.
Those rulings have been appealed with arguments set in May before a U.S. appeals court based in Virginia, in early June before appeals courts in Cincinnati and Atlanta and in September in Washington, D.C.
After the appeals courts have ruled, the legal battle is expected to return to the Supreme Court.
Republican Virginia Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli said the Supreme Court's decision was disappointing, but not surprising.
"This case's logical end point is the Supreme Court. It will simply have to make its way through the (appeals court) first," he said.
Cuccinelli said he had asked for expedited review because Virginia and other states were spending huge sums to carry out their obligations under the law, businesses were making decisions on whether to cut or keep employee health plans and the public was uncertain until the Supreme Court ruled.
But the Supreme Court sided with the Obama administration and rejected Virginia's appeal in a one-line order without any comment.
(Additional reporting by Lisa Lambert and Lewis Krauskopf in New York; Editing by Jackie Frank)