Ohio becomes 25th state to contest healthcare plan

WASHINGTON Mon Jan 10, 2011 5:27pm EST

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Ohio is joining a multistate lawsuit over the federal healthcare reform plan passed less than a year ago because the law "tramples on the rights of Ohio's citizens," the state's new attorney general said on Monday.

"We need to defend the checks and balances that our Constitution creates through its divisions of power and protect the people of Ohio from this huge federal overreach," said Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, a Republican, in a statement.

Ohio will join 21 other states in a legal challenge to the healthcare reforms that is led by the state of Florida. Virginia has filed a separate lawsuit and Oklahoma's attorney general has announced plans to do the same. That means half of all states are fighting the plan in federal court.

The lawsuits primarily revolve around the plan's requirement that an individual have health insurance or pay a penalty.

"The federal government simply does not have the right to force someone to buy a product -- be it health insurance or any other type of goods or services that an individual may or may not want," DeWine said.

A federal judge in the Virginia case in December agreed, saying the individual mandate was not protected by the Commerce Clause, the part of the constitution empowering the U.S. government to regulate commerce among the states. The U.S. government is appealing the decision.

One of the lawsuits is expected to reach the U.S. Supreme Court.

The plan championed by President Barack Obama to overhaul the $2.5 trillion healthcare industry and give all Americans access to medical help is under attack at both the state and federal level.

Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives, who are now in the majority, have advanced a bill to repeal the law, which they had originally scheduled for a vote on Wednesday. After a member of the House was shot over the weekend, Washington lawmakers postponed their agenda for a week. For a related story, please see ID:nN10238594

A federal district court judge heard the Florida suit last month and said he would make a decision soon.

(Reporting by Lisa Lambert; Editing by Diane Craft)

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