Policy-ish

Trial Looks Likely In States' Challenge To Health Overhaul

Just as some of the first provisions of the new federal health law are set to kick in, a legal challenge brought by 20 states is getting some traction.

At a hearing in Pensacola, Fla., Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson indicated he would let the case proceed to a trial, NPR's Debbie Elliott tells Shots.

However, Elliott, who was in the courtroom this morning, said the judge also said he would probably throw some parts of the case out without specifying which ones. He's expected to issue a ruling by Oct. 14.

The crux of the case is whether it's legal for the federal government to require people to have health insurance or pay a fine for going without it. The states in the case say no.

They also argue it's not right for them to have to shoulder additional Medicaid costs they never had a say in.

The Justice Department argued that the insurance requirements are valid under the longstanding authority of the federal government to regulate interstate commerce, Elliott says.

A key part of the administration's legal argument is that everyone in the country participates in the health system, whether they get insurance or not. If you end up in the emergency room after an accident without insurance, you'll end up paying out of your own pocket. So it's really a question of when you pay for health care more than whether you ever will.

The conservative judge, who sits in one of Florida's most conservative districts, pushed back on some of the administration's arguments and seemed open to some by the plaintiffs, Elliott says.

Republican Florida Attorney Bill McCollum filed the suit immediately after President Obama signed the health overhaul into law in March. He called the federal health law "an egregious violation of individual liberty and limited government," in a statement after the arguments.

"If the federal government is allowed to implement the individual mandate requiring citizens to have health insurance or pay a penalty," he said, "there is essentially no limit to what government can force citizens to purchase."

Debbie Elliott will have more on Tuesday's All Things Considered.

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