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Fla. Healthcare Lawsuit Goes Forward

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By Tanya Roth, Esq. on October 19, 2010 7:02 AM

The jury may still be out on the big questions, but one judge and his opinion came in on October 14. A federal judge in Florida ruled he will allow that state's healthcare lawsuit taking on the Obama reform law to proceed. Judge Roger Vinson of the Federal District Court ruled the case challenging the constitutionality of the healthcare reform law may continue and even hinted as to his possible opinion on the end result.

A Reagan appointee, Judge Vinson found that, "There may be a first time for anything. But, at this stage of the case, the plaintiffs have most definitely stated a plausible claim," reported The New York Times. This case, brought by Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum, is one of twenty brought by AGs around the country. All but one of the challenging attorneys general are Republicans.

Despite this early momentum in the Florida healthcare lawsuit, the outcome in the varying states is far from certain, writes The Times. In the case from the state of Michigan, a federal court there, the first to actually get to the merits of the case, found the healthcare reform law to be constitutional.

One of the main legal arguments by plaintiffs in the case is that the individual mandate requiring most people to buy insurance is outside the scope of Congress's legislative powers under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution.

The second basis for the question of constitutionality is whether or not the price for not buying insurance under the mandate is a penalty or a tax. If it is a tax, government lawyers argue Congress was within its rights to enact the law under its broad powers of taxation. However, Judge Vinson thinks the government is trying to have its cake and it it too with the tax argument. According to The Times, Congress tried to gain a political advantage during the healthcare debate by denying it was imposing a tax, but now seeks a legal advantage in court by insisting it is a tax, not a penalty.

This case is running just behind the schedule of the healthcare suit in Virginia. The Times reports that case will begin oral arguments Monday, October 18.

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