The Supreme Court is taking up the key question in the challenge to President Barack Obama's historic health care overhaul: Can the government force people to carry insurance or pay a penalty?
The justices hear extended arguments on that topic Tuesday, the linchpin of the law's aim to get medical insurance to an additional 30 million people, at a reasonable cost to private insurers and state governments.
Virtually every American will be affected by the outcome, due this summer in the heat of the presidential and congressional election campaigns.
The administration says Congress has ample authority to impose the requirement that most people carry insurance or pay a penalty. Twenty-six states and a small business group opposing the law call the insurance requirement an unprecedented power grab by Congress.
President Barack Obama's health care overhaul is front and center at the Supreme Court for three days of hearings to determine the fate of a law aimed at extending health insurance to more than 30 million Americans.
The justices will hear arguments beginning today in a highly partisan legal fight between the Obama administration and the 26 states that are leading a challenge to the largest expansion in the nation's social safety net in more than four decades.
A decision is expected by late June, in the midst of a presidential election campaign in which all of Obama's Republican challengers oppose the law and promise its repeal, if the high court doesn't strike it down first.