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Wisconsin to Join Fight Against Obama Health Care Law

Wisconsin will challenge the legality of President Barack Obama’s health-care reform legislation, state Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen said in a statement.

Van Hollen, a Republican, said today he received permission to proceed with litigation from the state’s new Republican governor, Scott Walker, who was inaugurated today. The attorney general previously sought authorization from Walker’s predecessor, Democrat James Doyle.

“The Constitution places limits on the power of the federal government, and these limits must be defended or they will disappear,” Van Hollen said. He called the act, which requires people to maintain coverage or pay a penalty, “unprecedented.”

Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act into law on March 23. Separate lawsuits questioning the constitutionality of the measure were immediately filed by the attorneys general of Florida and Virginia.

Nineteen states have joined in the suit brought by now-former Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum, which asserts the requirements of the legislation exceed Congress’s legitimate powers.

A spokesman for Van Hollen, Bill Cosh, said no decision has been made on whether Wisconsin will join the 20-state initiative or file a stand-alone case.

Tracy Schmaler, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Justice Department, declined to comment on Van Hollen’s announcement.

The government has called the minimum-coverage provision the linchpin of the reform effort because it would push younger and healthier people into the insurance pool.

The individual mandate and expansions of Medicaid and employer-based coverage would extend health coverage to 32 million more people by 2019, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Mandatory coverage would start in 2014.

U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson in Richmond last month ruled that the mandatory-coverage provision of the legislation is unconstitutional. The federal government has said it will appeal that ruling.

On Dec. 16, U.S. District Judge C. Roger Vinson in Pensacola, Florida heard more than three hours of oral argument from lawyers for both sides debating the constitutionality of the act.

While Hudson’s ruling in the lawsuit filed by Virginia Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli invalidated only the individual mandate, the 20 states have asked Vinson to strike down the entire act.

The judge has not yet ruled on cross-motions to decide the case.

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