In what will be the most closely watched ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court's term, the justices announced on Nov. 14 that they will take up a case that challenges the constitutionality of the 2010 law that revamps the nation's health-care system.

Whichever way the court rules, the decision will have a major impact on individuals and businesses across the country, including engineering and construction firms and their workers.

Issues that the justices will examine include whether the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s requirement that all individuals obtain health insurance, or else be subject to a penalty, is constitutional. If the court determines that "individual mandate" provision is unconstitutional, the justices also must decide whether the entire health-care law must also be invalidated.

Although several appeals courts have upheld the constitutionality of the health-care statute, one appellate court, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, based in Atlanta, struck down the individual mandate as unconstitutional but left the rest of that law intact. Plaintiffs, which included 26 states, had argued that the whole Affordable Care Act should be invalidated.

It is that appellate court decision, in Florida v. Dept. of Health and Human Services, that the Supreme Court will review.

The high court has set an unusually lengthy five and one-half hours for oral arguments, which are expected to take place in March. A ruling is expected late in the court's current term, which ends in late June.

Construction and engineering officials said it is difficult to predict how the court will rule. One possibility is that the justices will reject the challenges to the individual-mandate provision and the whole health-care law.

That outcome would square with the Obama administration's view. White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer said in a statement, "We know the Affordable Care Act is constitutional and are confident the Supreme Court will agree." 

But construction officials say that one of two other scenarios is likely to emerge--both of which would have significant effects on their industry.