Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum

PENSACOLA, Fla. (Legal Newsline) - A federal judge in Florida is allowing the part of the lawsuit challenging health care reform that questions a yearly penalty to proceed.

U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson issued a 65-page ruling on the federal government's motion to dismiss the challenge Thursday. He dismissed four of the lawsuit's six counts.

Proceeding, though, is a group of 20 states' main argument -- that requiring individuals to purchase health insurance or face a $695 yearly penalty is unconstitutional.

"The individual mandate applies across the board," Vinson wrote.

"People have no choice and there is no way to avoid it. Those who fall under the individual mandate either comply with it, or they are penalized. It is not based on an activity that they make the choice to undertake. Rather, it is based solely on citizenship and on being alive."

Joining the states in the lawsuit, which is headed by Florida, is the National Federation of Independent Business.

"Today we are one step closer to overturning the unconstitutional federal healthcare law, NFIB executive director Karen Harned said.

"NFIB is pleased Judge Vinson ruled in favor of allowing our case to move forward. It is critical to small business owners and all Americans for the court to weigh in on the important constitutional questions at the heart of our lawsuit over the individual mandate.

"Judge Vinson correctly recognized that the individual mandate, which forces all Americans to purchase health insurance, whether they want it or not gives the federal government an unprecedented amount of power over our individual lives."

The feds earned a win in another challenge in Michigan last week.

"Far from 'inactivity,' by choosing to forgo insurance plaintiffs are making an economic decision to try to pay for health care services later, out of pocket, rather than now through the purchase of insurance, collectively shifting billions of dollars, $43 billion in 2008, onto other market participants...." Judge George Caram Steeh wrote.

A decision on summary judgment motions is coming in a case brought by Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. He argues that state law prevents individuals from being penalized for not purchasing health insurance.

From Legal Newsline: Reach John O'Brien by e-mail at jobrienwv@gmail.com.

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