Three federal judges have struck down the so-called individual mandate as unconstitutional, while three others have upheld it. At the appellate level, the Atlanta-based 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals struck it down, while the Sixth US Circuit in Cincinnati and the District of Columbia Circuit in Washington both upheld it. The Richmond, Va.-based Fourth Circuit dismissed the lawsuit without reaching the individual mandate issue.
Among the challenging plaintiffs at the high court will be the State of Florida, joined by 25 other states, the National Federation of Independent Business, and several individuals. More than 150 legal briefs have been filed by several hundred lawyers, among them an elite group of advocates set to argue the case.
Public opinion is tilted against the individual mandate, with 51 percent saying it should be declared unconstitutional, and 28 percent saying it should be upheld, a Kaiser Family Foundation poll found.
As if the health-care debate wasn't divisive enough, underlying issues in the case mirror broader flash points between Democrats and Republicans, and liberals and conservatives – and point up the massive political, economic, social, and legal stakes in the case.
The crux of the case: congressional reach
In broad terms, the president and his supporters favor a central government strong enough to shape economic markets to advance their view of the collective good. They say the Constitution's Commerce Clause, which gives Congress the authority to pass laws regulating commerce and economic activity among the states, supports the individual mandate.