The Supreme Court has just announced that it will hear oral arguments over the constitutionality of the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, widely known as Obamacare, in a case brought by 26 states.

The Associated Press notes:

The health care case could be the high court's most significant and political undertaking since the 5-4 decision in Bush v. Gore nearly 11 years ago. That ruling effectively sealed George W. Bush's 2000 presidential election victory.

The ruling will likely come down in the summer of 2012 when the country is in the midst of a presidential election. But, election or not, it is almost impossible to overstate the importance of this case.

The legislation includes a requirement that citizens purchase a product–health insurance. If it is constitutional for the federal government to force a citizen to buy health insurance, with penalties for not doing so, then the scope of the central government is vastly expanded.

Fox News reports that the Supreme Court will also look at the issue of severability, which means that, if the constitutionality of the individual mandate (the requirement to purchase health insurance) is ruled unconstitutional, the rest of the law could survive. 

The legislation remains unpopular with the public. In a Kaiser poll released late last month, the percentage of people expressing a favorable opinion of it was 34 percent, as compared to 51 percent unfavorable.