The fate of President Obama's health care plan now lies with the US Supreme Court.
This was a bygone conclusion when the 11th US Court of Appeals in Atlanta ruled on Friday that the Obama administration and the Congress had overstepped their 'individual mandate'. The court also said that the administration could not ask all Americans to buy health insurance or face a financial penalty. This, it said, was unconstitutional.
The main question, however, is whether the high court justices will decide on the health case before or after the 2012 elections, due to be held a year from November 2011.
The Supreme Court could also hear the case before the election, and announce its ruling on the issue afterwards.
In June, however, an appeals court based in Cincinnati upheld the individual mandate - a point the White House quickly made after Friday's reversal in Atlanta.
The conflicting appeals court decisions will likely speed the case to the Supreme Court, where analysts are already handicapping its chances.
Critics of the Obama health care plan said that Friday's ruling is another sign of what House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, called "the inevitable demise of the law."
"Americans should have access to the health coverage that is right for them and their families, not be penalized for failing to purchase a plan devised by Washington," Boehner said.