By Mike Lillis - 08/02/10 04:20 PM EDT
Health and Human Services Secretary (HHS) Kathleen Sebelius on Monday downplayed a federal judge's decision allowing Virginia's challenge to healthcare reform to continue, arguing it was merely a procedural move that has no bearing on the underlying issues.
"We remain confident that the case is solid," Sebelius told reporters during a phone call on the reform law's effects on Medicare spending.
Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, a liberal consumer group, echoed that message Monday, saying the ruling "has no effect on the validity of the health reform law."
"The case now moves to another stage, in which the court will evaluate the constitutionality of the law itself," Pollack said in a statement. “We fully expect that the court will ultimately uphold the law. Numerous constitutional law experts have concluded that the law is clearly constitutional."
Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has challenged HHS over the healthcare reform law, arguing a provision requiring individuals to purchase health insurance or pay a financial penalty violates the Constitution's commerce clause.
On Monday, U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson denied requests by the Justice Department that the lawsuit be dismissed, arguing Virginia's concerns merit further exploration.
"Unquestionably, this regulation radically changes the landscape of health insurance coverage in America," he wrote.
A hearing on the case is scheduled for Oct. 18.