Judge: Parts Of Suit Over Health Law Can Go To Trial

A federal court judge in Florida has thrown out much of a lawsuit brought against the new health care law by 20 state attorneys general. But he says a key challenge to the law could go to trial: That is, whether individuals can be required to obtain health insurance.

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A federal district court judge in Florida this afternoon ruled that parts of a lawsuit challenging the new health care law can proceed.

But as NPR's Julie Rovner reports, the ruling is a bit of a political embarrassment for the 20 state attorneys general who filed the suit.

JULIE ROVNER: Within hours of President Obama signing the health law last March, Florida Republican Attorney General Bill McCollum had filed the first lawsuit against it, charging that it was unconstitutional.

BILL MCCOLLUM: And it's about the question of forcing the state of Florida and the other states against the sovereignty that's guaranteed under our Constitution to our states to do things that are practically impossible to do without giving any resources or money to do it with.

ROVNER: McCollum's lawsuit would eventually be joined by 19 other state attorneys general - all but one Republican. But, today, Judge Roger Vinson threw out the majority of the suit - at least the parts brought by the state officials.

In a 65-page decision, Judge Vinson said only two individual plaintiffs and the National Federation of Independent Business may proceed to challenge the requirement that nearly every American have health insurance. The state officials will be allowed to proceed with one part of the suit. It charges that the health law is coercing state into expanding the Medicaid program for the poor.

Judge Vinson, however, hinted that the outcome is unlikely to go their way. He wrote, quote, "The current status of the law provides very little support for the plaintiff's coercion theory.

The Florida suit is one of several filed against the law since it was enacted, all of them challenged the constitutionality of requiring people to have health insurance.

Last week, a judge in Michigan dismissed one of those suits. The judge said the health insurance requirement, quote, "formed a rational basis for congressional action."

A hearing on yet another suit - this one filed by the state of Virginia - is set for next Monday.

Julie Rovner, NPR News, Washington.

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