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Legal, Legislative Battle Over Health Care Reform Continues

Appeals court judges hear arguments

En español | In the continuing battle over the new health care law, federal appeals court judges in Atlanta today oral heard arguments in a key multi-state lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the law.

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Health Care reform update moves to state litigation

The debate over the legality of the new health care law continues in the courts. — Gavel: Romilly Lockyer/Getty Images; Caduceus: Getty Images

A panel of three judges in the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments from lawyers for more than half the states and from lawyers for the federal government. In a battle largely waged along partisan lines, most states involved in the challenge lean toward the GOP, either with a majority of Republican voters or Republican attorneys general.

At issue is whether Congress had the authority to require nearly every American to buy health insurance in 2014, the so-called individual mandate. The plaintiffs — Florida, joined by 25 states, the National Federation of Independent Business and two individuals — won a victory Jan. 31 when U.S. District Court Judge Roger Vinson in Pensacola, Fla., ruled the entire Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act unconstitutional. Congress overstepped its authority in imposing the mandate, Vinson wrote. "The Act, like a defectively designed watch, needs to be redesigned and reconstructed by the watchmaker."

The Obama administration appealed, and the 11th Circuit in Atlanta granted an expedited review of the case. If the appellate court rules quickly, the case could reach the Supreme Court by early October.

Individual mandate to buy insurance under fire

Both sides have filed numerous briefs and responses, and scores of interested parties — including AARP, members of Congress, state legislators, health care providers and legal and business groups — have filed friend-of-the-court briefs.

In the suit, the states argue that if Congress is allowed to require individuals to purchase insurance, Congress also could order people "to eat more vegetables and fewer desserts, to exercise at least 45 minutes per day, to sleep at least eight hours per day, and to drink one glass of wine a day but never any beer."

Next: Dozens of challenges to the new health care law. >>

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