The U.S. Supreme Court has decided that the justices will hear arguments on a key provision of President Barack Obama’s health care reform law.
The decision, made earlier today, had been widely expected since late September, when the Obama administration asked the country’s highest court to uphold the centerpiece insurance provision and 26 states separately asked that the entire law, known as the Affordable Care Act, be struck down.
The central provision in question is the requirement that individuals buy health insurance starting in 2014 or pay a penalty.
Supporters of the law say the insurance purchase is needed to spread the cost of health care among all Americans. They say that if people waited to buy insurance until they needed help paying for their health care, insurance premiums for others would be unaffordable.
“We are pleased that the court has agreed to hear this case. We know the Affordable Care Act is constitutional and are confident the Supreme Court will agree,” White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer said in a statement.
Other legal issues on Obamacare that will get attention from the justices include whether the entire law can stand if the mandate is struck down, if the law’s Medicaid extension is constitutional and if an obscure tax law blocks any legal challenge to the law.
Oral arguments to the Court are expected in March and a decision on Obama’s health care law would likely be postponed until the last week of the court’s term in late June, just months before the 2012 presidential election.