Six hours over three days. That's all the time that has been set aside for oral arguments of the one of the most politically charged issues of our times - health care reform.
When the Supreme Court gavels into session today, it will begin a unique three-day stream of dialogue that will result in a significant ruling, expected sometime in June, that will affect every man, woman and child in the United States.
Today, government lawyers and opponents will be arguing whether it's still too early for the Supreme Court to decide on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act. Ironically, both sides are in agreement on this - hoping that the high court will decide on health care reform's legality before it really kicks in in 2015.
On Tuesday, government lawyers will defend the concept of the individual mandate, saying that the U.S. Congress was within its rights to compel Americans to buy health insurance. Challengers will argue that mandating insurance unconstitutionally forces citizens to engage in economic activity.
Finally, on Wednesday morning, the high court will consider if any parts of the Affordable Care Act should be allowed to go into effect if it rules that the individual mandate is unconstitutional. But Congress never spelled out which parts of the law could exist on their own. The court will also consider whether a massive expansion of Medicaid to all low-income people in 2014 is an unconstitutional federal government coercion of the states. The law is expected to add approximately 16 million new people to Medicaid, when everyone living near the poverty line will qualify.