Judge puts brakes on portion of state’s healthcare reform lawsuit

HATTIESBURG — A federal judge has put on hold portions of a Mississippi lawsuit against Obama administration’s healthcare law.

U.S. District Judge Keith Starrett, in a ruling issued Nov. 23, stayed consideration of parts of the April 2010 lawsuit not involving medical privacy issues. He said those issues were pending before the Supreme Court in a case out of Florida.

The Mississippi lawsuit argues the healthcare reform law’s requirement that every American buy health insurance would injure them. The law provides tax penalties starting in 2014 for those who don’t have medical insurance.

Starrett’s decision was first reported by the Hattiesburg American.

The Mississippi plaintiffs include Republican Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant — acting as a private citizen — and 10 others.

“The court finds it would be improvident to proceed with this case with impending rulings from the United States Supreme Court that would address most of the issues that are pending before this court in this case,” Starrett wrote in his order.

Department of Justice spokesman Charles Miller declined comment on behalf of the defendants, which include the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Labor.

Attorneys from both sides filed a motion seeking a stay to the whole case pending the Supreme Court decision.

State Sen. Chris McDaniel of Ellisville, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said the part of the lawsuit that remains in litigation evokes the right to medical privacy.

“It’s a substantial part of our lawsuit,” McDaniel said. “We believe that right, if that’s good case law, would extend to negate that individual mandate (to purchase insurance).”

He said the federal government forcing Americans to disclose medical information to an insurer would violate the rights to medical privacy.

“We wanted to put the court in the position of narrowing or reversing its Roe line of thinking, or in the alternative, rule against the individual mandate,” McDaniel said.

“We think it’s a winnable argument and look forward to our day in court,” he said.

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