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More States Join Federal Lawsuit Challenging Health Overhaul

As House Republicans prepared for a vote Thursday that resulted in passage of a bill to repeal the federal health overhaul, six states took another route to stop its implementation.

Attorneys general in Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Ohio, Wisconsin and Wyoming hopped aboard a lawsuit seeking to overturn the law filed in a federal district court in Pensacola, Fla. The newcomers reflect "broad, nationwide concern about the constitutionality of this sweeping and unprecedented federal legislation," Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said in a statement.

Last March, Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum launched the suit almost immediately after health overhaul was signed into law by President Obama. The plaintiffs claim the overhaul is unconstitutional because it would force some people to buy health insurance starting in 2014 and would unfairly coerce states to expand Medicaid for the poor.

U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson approved the addition of the new states on Wednesday, Bloomberg reports. As a result, 26 states are now part of the suit.

Many prominent Republicans, including House Speaker John Boehner and a group from the Senate, have filed briefs in support of the lawsuit. The administration defends the law and points to a couple of decisions that have upheld it already. Supporters of the law, including 35 prominent economists, have file arguments in its favor.

By the end of January, Vinson could decide to rule on the arguments filed in writing, without the need for a trial. Or the case could proceed to trial, putting the dispute on a new public stage.

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Scott Hensley edits stories about health, biomedical research and pharmaceuticals for NPR's Science desk. During the COVID-19 pandemic, he has led the desk's reporting on the development of vaccines against the coronavirus.