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Healthcare reform lawsuit dimissed, but judge gives second chance

HATTIESBURG — A federal judge is dismissing a lawsuit in Mississippi that challenges part of the Obama administration’s healthcare law, but he is giving the plaintiffs 30 days to make changes to their complaint.

U.S. District Judge Keith Starrett ruled Thursday that a group of people who filed the suit haven’t shown that they will be required to comply with part of the law that says people must have health insurance or face fines.

“Plaintiffs simply alleged that they will be subject to the minimum essential coverage provision — a bare legal conclusion which the court may not accept as true,” he wrote.

The plaintiffs claim that part of the law is unconstitutional, but the judge hasn’t ruled on the merits of their claims. He gave them a month to correct their suit’s “jurisdictional defects.”

Republican Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant — acting as a private citizen — is one of the plaintiffs. Bryant has health insurance as a state employee but claimed the law will force state workers to choose from health insurance options they may not want.

“Every lawsuit will have an obstacle, but I am pleased that Judge Starrett did not dismiss the entire claim,” Bryant said in a statement. “Instead, he has asked the attorneys to correct some procedural information contained in the suit and we are now working on that task.”

Earlier this week, a federal judge in Florida ruled the entire health care overhaul law is unconstitutional. Mississippi is one of 26 states in that lawsuit.

The Florida judge’s ruling produced an even split in federal court decisions so far on the health care law, mirroring enduring divisions among the public. Two judges had previously upheld the law, both Democratic appointees. A Republican appointee in Virginia had ruled against it.

The cases are almost certainly going to be resolved by the Supreme Court.


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