Judge Allows Multistate Health Reform Lawsuit to Move Forward

BY Lea Winerman  October 14, 2010 at 6:28 PM EDT

In a blow to the Obama administration, a federal judge in Florida ruled Thursday that a lawsuit challenging some of the major tenets of health care reform can go forward. The suit was brought by 20 state attorneys general, led by Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum.

Judge Roger Vinson will now hear arguments on two elements of the lawsuit: a charge that the individual mandate (the requirement that every American buy health insurance) is unconstitutional, and a challenge to the law’s requirement that states significantly expand Medicaid.

Just one week ago, a federal judge in Michigan ruled in a different case, brought by the Thomas More Law Center, that the individual mandate is constitutional. But today’s decision to allow the more prominent Florida case to go forward is a setback for health reform supporters.

In his ruling, Vinson chastised Democrats for what he called “Alice-in-Wonderland” tactics: saying during the debate over reform that the penalty leveled on people who do not buy health insurance was not a tax, but then calling it a tax in their legal defense of the mandate.

“Congress should not be permitted to secure and cast politically difficult votes on controversial legislation by deliberately calling something one thing, after which the defenders of that legislation take an “Alice-in-Wonderland” tack and argue in court that Congress really meant something else entirely, thereby circumventing the safeguard that exists to keep their broad power in check.”

You can read the full ruling here.

Meanwhile, a judge in Virginia will hear arguments Monday in the third suit challenging the constitutionality of the individual mandate, this one brought by Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.