Federal Judge Clears Way for Challenge to Reform Law, Focusing on Coverage Mandate

A federal judge cleared the way for a 20-state challenge of the healthcare reform law, calling its argument against the law's coverage mandate "a most plausible claim," according to a report by the Wall Street Journal.

"The power that the individual mandate seeks to harness is simply without prior precedent," and therefore must be scrutinized by federal courts to determine whether it is constitutional, the Florida-based judge wrote.

But the judge said he hadn't made up his mind on the merits of the case and he dismissed four other contentions by the plaintiffs. For example, he was skeptical of the suits' arguments that the law was unconstitutional because it would impose new Medicaid costs states couldn't afford.

The case is expected to eventually go to the U.S. Supreme Court. A federal judge in Michigan already ruled in favor of the law in a separate case. Even though both decisions focused on the mandate, plaintiffs argue the entire law should be invalidated because the law's provisions are intertwined.

Specifically, plaintiffs argued the mandate to carry insurance or pay a fine exceeds Congress's constitutional powers to regulate economic activity, because a decision to not acquire coverage isn't such an activity. But the Obama administration said nearly all Americans get care through a doctor or hospital, so requiring them to carry insurance simply regulates how they pay for services they will demand anyway.

Read the Wall Street Journal report on healthcare reform.

Read more coverage on the health insurance mandate

- Judge Upholds Mandate to Buy Health Insurance

- 6 Ways Republicans Plan to Chip Away at Reform Law After Election

- New Poll Shows Support Slipping Again For Healthcare Reform Law

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