Six states ask to join Florida lawsuit challenging reform law

Florida is asking a federal judge in Florida to allow six more states — all with newly empowered Republican governors — to join a lawsuit challenging the healthcare reform law.

If accepted, the request to add Ohio, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Wisconsin and Wyoming would bring the number of states on the lawsuit to 26.

U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson, appointed by President Reagan, may rule as soon as this week on whether the reform law’s requirement for individuals to purchase health insurance is unconstitutional.

Florida’s new attorney general, Pamela Jo Bondi (R), said adding the states to the lawsuit, which also was filed by the National Federation of Independent Business, would not delay a decision.

“The only effect of granting this motion would be to expand from 20 to 26 the number of Plaintiff States joining together to seek both a declaration that the [reform law] is unconstitutional and injunctive relief for the benefit of themselves and their citizens and residents,” she wrote in the request, filed Tuesday. “Thus, the requested relief will not result in any detriment to Defendants in defending this action; and the Additional States, after being permitted to be named as Plaintiffs, will be in a position to benefit from any equitable remedies that may be entered in this cause.”

Two federal judges, both appointed by President Clinton, last year upheld the so-called individual mandate. However, a federal judge in Virginia — a President George W. Bush appointee — in December struck down the individual mandate, though he declined to block the law’s implementation.

Opponents of the reform law say the Constitution bans Congress from regulating “inactivity,” which in this case would be an individual’s decision not to purchase healthcare. However, the administration argues that everyone participates in the healthcare system, and failure to purchase coverage is an active choice affecting the insurance market.

The Florida case also challenges the reform law’s expansion of states’ Medicaid programs.

Oklahoma's incoming attorney general said earlier this month that the state would file its own lawsuit challenging the reform law.