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States' lawsuit challenging federal health-care law can proceed

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The lawsuit filed by 20 states, including Indiana, challenging the constitutionality of the new federal health-care law can go forward on two counts, a Florida federal judge ruled Thursday.

In a 65-page order, U.S. District Senior Judge Roger Vinson of the Northern District of Florida, Pensacola Division, denied the U.S. Department of Justice’s motion to dismiss regarding two claims: that the individual mandate and concomitant penalty exceed Congress’ authority under the Commerce Clause and violate the Ninth and 10th amendments; and the act coerces the states with respect to Medicaid by altering and expanding the program in violation of the Constitution.

A hearing on the surviving claims is scheduled for Dec. 16.

The judge dismissed the other four claims raised by the states, including that the employer mandate interferes with states’ sovereignty.

“In this order, I have not attempted to determine whether the line between Constitutional and extraconstitutional government has been crossed. That will be decided on the basis of the parties’ expected motions for summary judgment, when I will have the benefit of additional argument and all evidence in the record that may bear on the outstanding issues,” wrote Judge Vinson. “I am only saying that (with respect to two of the particular causes of action discussed above) the plaintiffs have at least stated a plausible claim that the line has been crossed.”

Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller said in a statement he’s pleased the two most important elements of the suit survived and the states hope the United States Supreme Court will take the case to rule on the issues.

“I recognize that due to the recession, many of our fellow Hoosiers struggle without health insurance. But as I have traveled our state, many Hoosiers also have told me this overreaching new federal law tramples on their ‘God-given right to be left alone,’ and they wanted my office to challenge the law in court. I am pleased that the legal work we performed on this challenge was all within our existing office budget approved in 2009, and that we have spent no additional dollars on legal fees or other costs to participate in this case,” he said.

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