Wisconsin adds to heat on healthcare law

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republican moves to unravel the healthcare plan championed by President Barack Obama advanced on Monday, with Wisconsin officially joining a multi-state lawsuit against the reform law.

Meanwhile, Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives, who now constitute the majority, said they would vote to repeal the healthcare law on January 12.

Wisconsin’s new Republican Governor Scott Walker had pledged to join the lawsuit within days of winning office in November’s election where Obama’s reform of the $2.5 trillion healthcare industry was a contentious issue.

The 20 states, led by Florida, say a requirement that all individuals buy medical insurance oversteps constitutional limits on federal authority. U.S. District Court Judge Roger Vinson, who heard testimony in the case in December, said he planned to make a decision quickly.

“Never before has the federal government required an individual to either buy government-approved insurance or pay a penalty. And nowhere does the Constitution authorize Congress to regulate in this manner,” said Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen in a statement about joining the lawsuit.

Alongside the multi-state lawsuit, Virginia and some interest groups are also challenging the law’s constitutionality in federal court.

In the first major ruling on the lawsuits in December, a district judge in Virginia said the insurance provision, known as the “individual mandate,” was an overreach of the Constitution’s Commerce Clause, which allows the federal government to regulate commerce between the states.

While U.S. District Court Judge Henry Hudson said the mandate was an “unbridled exercise of federal police powers,” he did not rule the entire law unconstitutional.

The U.S. government is appealing the decision.

Reporting by Lisa Lambert, additional reporting by Thomas Ferraro; Editing by Andrew Hay