A federal judge in Florida allowed a 20-state challenge to the healthcare reform act to proceed, denying the Obama administration’s move to have the case tossed but also dismissing four of the six counts in the lawsuit.
Judge Roger Vinson of the U.S. District Court for Northern Florida ruled that the lawsuit, filed by Florida attorney general Bill McCollum and joined by the AGs or governors of 19 other states, could proceed on two counts: The plaintiffs’ argument that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s “individual mandate” requiring health insurance coverage and its expansion of Medicaid to 16 million Americans are unconstitutional.
“The power that the individual mandate seeks to harness is simply without prior precedent,” Vinson wrote in his decision. “The individual mandate applies across the board. People have no choice and there is no way to avoid it. Those who fall under the individual mandate either comply with it, or they are penalized. It is not based on an activity that they make the choice to undertake. Rather, it is based solely on citizenship and on being alive.
“Of course, to say that something is ‘novel’ and ‘unprecedented’ does not necessarily mean that it is ‘unconstitutional’ and “improper.’ There may be a first time for anything. But, at this stage of the case, the plaintiffs have most definitely stated a plausible claim with respect to this cause of action.”
The case, widely believed to be headed to the U.S. Supreme Court, is slated for a summary judgment hearing Dec. 16.
Last week a Michigan judge handed the Obama administration a win in a similar case, ruling that the individual mandate is constitutional. A third case challenging the law is also under way in Virginia.