On October 14, a federal judge declined to dismiss two of the six claims in a healthcare reform lawsuit filed by 20 states.

In his ruling, Judge Roger Vinson of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida allowed a claim that the individual mandate requiring most people to buy health insurance and the penalty for not doing so violate the Commerce Clause of the Constitution. In addition, he allowed a challenge to the law’s Medicaid expansion, sparked by some states’ contention that they will be overwhelmed by costs for the program if they eventually have to pay for millions of new enrollees.

The lawsuit – filed immediately after President Obama signed the healthcare bill into law on March 23, 2010 – was brought by four Governors and 16 state Attorneys General, in addition to the National Federation of Independent Business and two individuals.

The decision was not a surprise, since Judge Vinson had already indicated in September that he would allow at least a portion of the lawsuit to continue. At the same time, the ruling was still considered a setback for the Administration, which will now have to continue to fight the 20-state lawsuit in federal court – a battle that is expected to end up before the Supreme Court.

Judge Vinson has scheduled an oral argument on expected motions for summary judgment from both sides for December 16.