The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear arguments in a dispute over the constitutionality of the Obama administration's overhaul of the healthcare laws, which requires most Americans to purchase insurance or face a penalty.
The court said Monday that it would hear oral arguments on the case in March. The law is not slated to take effect until 2014.
The law also extends coverage to an estimated 32 million Americans who lack insurance by expanding Medicaid, setting up exchanges for consumers to buy insurance and guaranteeing insurance to people with pre-existing conditions.
The court will hear five-and-a-half hours of arguments from attorneys – a stark contrast from the typical one-hour arguments customary in court proceedings.
The last time the court heard arguments of that length was when it ruled on campaign finance reform laws in 2003, The Associated Press reported.
The central issue is the assertion by Florida and 25 other states that the law tramples on their sovereignty.
Lower courts have overwhelmingly ruled that the law is constitutional.
"The right to be free from federal regulation is not absolute, and yields to the imperative that Congress be free to forge national solutions to national problems, no matter how local – or seemingly passive – their individual origins," Judge Laurence Silberman wrote in the recent decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.
Opponents of the bill cite public opinion as a driving factor to continue to fight the implementation of the law.
"In both public surveys and at the ballot box, Americans have rejected the law's mandate that they must buy government-approved health insurance, and I hope the Supreme Court will do the same," said Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.
The court will also rule on whether the remaining components of the bill can take effect if the mandate requiring Americans to purchase insurance is ruled unconstitutional.
It is unclear what other options are available to states opposing the bill if the Supreme Court rules in favor of allowing the law to take effect.