Two years and six days after President Obama signed the most sweeping overhaul of the nation’s health care system since the creation of Medicare and Medicaid, the law itself is on life support.

A boisterous octet of Supreme Court justices, plus one silent partner, saw to that during a three-day, 6½-hour debate with lawyers defending and attacking what once was seen as Obama’s proudest legacy.

By the time it was over Wednesday afternoon, virtually everyone following the three-year battle within the three branches of the federal government had a strong opinion on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Everyone, that is, except for a few justices who hold its fate in their hands.

Those justices — particularly, it seems, Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy — know their decision in June will reverberate through the halls of Congress, the Oval Office in the White House, the examining rooms of doctors’ offices and the classrooms of ivy-covered law schools for decades to come.

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