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Government appeals ruling against health care reform law

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • The case now goes to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals
  • So far, two judges have upheld the law and two struck it down
  • The case is expected to reach the U.S. Supreme Court

(CNN) -- The Justice Department on Tuesday filed its expected appeal of a federal judge's ruling that the sweeping health care reform law championed by President Barack Obama is unconstitutional.

With the appeal, the case now goes to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals for consideration, and could eventually reach the U.S. Supreme Court.

U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson tossed out the entire health care law in his January 31 ruling that the "individual mandate" -- a key provision requiring most Americans to purchase health insurance or face financial penalties -- was unconstitutional.

When states said they would refuse to recognize the law in the wake of Vinson's decision, the Obama administration sought specific guidance from the judge, claiming confusion over whether it could enforce parts of the law currently being implemented while the case continued through the legal system.

In response, Vinson last week issued a seven-day stay of his ruling while ordering the administration to expedite an appeal of whether current parts of the law can remain temporarily in effect.

The filing Tuesday by the Justice Department met the deadline set by Vinson.

However, it was unclear whether the 11th Circuit Court would expedite the case to provide a faster ruling on whether parts of the law can continue to be enforced throughout the legal process.

Vinson's original ruling was a victory for Florida and 25 states that had challenged the law.

While the individual mandate would not go into effect until 2014, other parts of the health reform law are currently being administered, including small business tax credits, federal grants, and consumer protection measures.

The federal government wanted to know whether these provisions can continue while the issue is under appeal, particularly in the 26 states that filed this lawsuit. Oklahoma and Virginia have filed separate legal challenges.

The sweeping law has about 450 individual components.

Vinson, while dismissing the health care reform law -- known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act -- did not issue a formal injunction to block either parts of or the entire law from going into effect.

In his original ruling, Vinson offered some support for various parts of the health care law. But he concluded that since the minimum coverage provision is invalid, no part of the 2,700-page law could be enforced.

Two federal judges have ruled the health care act to be constitutional, while two others have concluded the opposite. That sets up what is likely to be a Supreme Court showdown, perhaps as early as next year.

The case is State of Florida v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (3:10-cv-91).