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Justice Department Asks Supreme Court To Take Up Health Care Law

The Obama administration has asked the Supreme Court to hear a case that will decide on the constitutionality of the 2010 health care overhaul law.

"The department has consistently and successfully defended this law in several courts of appeals, and only the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled it unconstitutional," the Justice Department said in a statement. "We believe the question is appropriate for review by the Supreme Court."

That 11th Circuit decision ruled that the health care law's mandate that everyone in the country must have insurance — what's called the individual mandate — was unconstitutional.

The New York Timesreports that it's likely the high court will hear arguments by spring and issue a decision in June, "in time to land in the middle of the 2012 presidential campaign."

The Times adds:

On Monday, the administration decided that it would not seek review from the full 11th Circuit. Its Supreme Court petition was not due until November.

Also on Wednesday, two sets of plaintiffs who had won on the core issue in the 11th Circuit filed their own request for Supreme Court review.

"Time is of the essence," wrote Paul D. Clement, a former United States solicitor general who represents 26 states in the case, urging the justices to move quickly to hear a case on the law, the Affordable Care Act. "The grave constitutional questions surrounding the A.C.A. and its novel exercise of federal power will not subside until this court resolves them."

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Eyder Peralta
Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.