President Barack Obama’s health-care law, including its mandate that most Americans obtain insurance, goes before a U.S. appeals court, the second of at least three such panels that will consider the act’s constitutionality.

Opponents of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, signed into law by Obama, a Democrat, in March 2010, have argued Congress exceeded its authority in requiring almost all Americans to have health insurance or face a tax penalty starting in 2014.

Decisions by courts, including the three-judge panel in Cincinnati that will hear arguments today, may set the stage for review by the U.S. Supreme Court.

“A ruling that a major act is unconstitutional cannot just sit there,” Harvard Law School Professor Charles Fried said yesterday in a phone interview. “If one court says it’s unconstitutional, it’ll go up.”

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