Major Health Reform Ruling Expected

Jan 31, 2011 11:52am

ABC News' Ariane de Vogue reports: Today we expect a major health care ruling out of federal court in Florida that could bring challenges to the Obama administration’s health care law one step closer to the Supreme Court.

So far two federal judges have upheld the constitutionality of the law and one federal judge struck down a key portion of it. Today’s ruling could balance out that scorecard.

The Supreme Court is more likely to agree to hear a case down the road if the lower courts have disagreed on a constitutional question.

Today’s case is unique because it is being brought by a total of 26 states.

The Florida Court has sent word to the parties to be on “stand by”—which means the decision could come at any time.

At issue:

Florida, joined by 25 other states, is challenging whether Congress had the authority to require that individuals buy health insurance. This so called “individual mandate” is a cornerstone of the new law.

In December Judge Roger Vinson of the US District Court for  the Northern District of Florida heard arguments on the case and seemed skeptical of some of the administration’s arguments.

Justice Department lawyers argue that the constitution gives Congress the authority to regulate interstate commerce, and that includes the health care costs of the uninsured that reach 43 billion dollars annually.

But the states argue the case is about the scope of federal power. They contend that Congress had no right to require individuals to enter a marketplace and buy a particular good or service.

This case is different from the other law suits because it challenges not only the individual mandate but the Medicaid provision of the law. The States are arguing that the law is an unfair burden to the states because it forces them to provide costly Medicaid to more citizens. 

For a primer on the legal issue surrounding the health reform law, click here.

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