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John Simmons, left, and David Williams argue during a rally Saturday Aug. 15, 2009 in Atlanta. P Photo/John Bazemore)

ATLANTA (AP) — A federal appeals panel’s ruling striking down the centerpiece of President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul moves the question of whether Americans can be required to buy health insurance a step closer to the U.S. Supreme Court.

A divided three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Friday that Congress overstepped its authority when lawmakers passed the so-called individual mandate, the first such decision by a federal appeals court. It’s a stinging blow to Obama’s signature legislative achievement, as many experts agree the requirement that Americans carry health insurance — or face tax penalties — is the foundation for other parts of the law and key to paying for it.

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