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Thursday
Dec162010

Health Care Battle Moves to Florida

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(PENSACOLA, Fla.) -- A federal judge in Florida will begin hearing oral arguments Thursday in a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the individual mandate in the new health care law and the expansion of Medicaid.

The proceedings begin just days after a Virginia judge ruled the federal government is overstepping its constitutional boundaries by requiring Americans to carry health insurance by 2014.

What sets the Florida case apart, though, is that it's brought on behalf of 20 states and is the first court challenge against Medicaid expansion.

The new law's requirement that Medicaid be expanded to cover Americans whose incomes are at or below 133 percent of the federal poverty level -- about $14,000 in 2010 for a person living alone -- has triggered a flurry of protests from some states.

Arizona's incoming state Senate president has rejected billions in federal help.  Republican lawmakers in Texas recently threatened to eliminate Medicaid altogether because of rising costs.  And incoming Florida Gov. Rick Scott has called the health care law the "biggest job killer in the history of this country."

The 20 states that are part of the lawsuit in Florida argue that Medicaid expansion will further burden their already crumbling budgets.  But the federal government is supposed to pick up much of the tab, paying $443.5 billion -- or 95.4 percent of the total cost -- between 2014 and 2019, according to an analysis by the non-partisan Kaiser Family Foundation.  The states would contribute $21.2 billion, Kaiser said.

Under the new law, Medicaid enrollment will climb by 15.9 million more people by 2019 than it otherwise would have, and the number of uninsured will fall by more than 11 million.

Supporters say the expansion is desperately needed because the current income threshold is dismally low.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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