It's clearly unprecedented for Congress to require Americans to purchase a private product, medical insurance in the case of President Barack Obama's health care overhaul law.
But is it unconstitutional?
That's the question the Supreme Court will have to decide now that two appellate courts have come down on opposite sides of the issue, with more rulings likely on the way.
Differences between the two rulings that have come out so far:
— In Cincinnati, the 6th Circuit concluded the individual mandate is within lawmakers' evolving authority under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution, which says Congress has the power to regulate interstate commerce. The majority ruled that Congress had a rational basis for concluding that the minimum coverage provision is essential to the law's larger reforms.
— The latest ruling Friday, from the 11th Circuit in Atlanta, said the mandate exceeds congressional power under the Commerce Clause. The 2-1 divided panel said Congress cannot require Americans to buy expensive insurance "from the time they are born until the time they die."
An appeals court panel in Richmond, Va., is expected to add its opinion to the mix at any time, while the court in Washington has yet to schedule arguments for a challenge to the law pending there. There could be more coming, since more than 30 legal challenges have been filed over the health care overhaul.