Florida judge denies HHS extension in healthcare reform case

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A District Court judge in Florida  has denied the Department of Health and Human Services' (HHS) request for additional time to file a motion to dismiss an amended complaint in the case of State of Florida v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, a case that questions the constitutionality of the health reform law.

On May 14, the State of Florida filed an amended complaint against HHS, and the original schedule allowed 33 days for the defendants to file a motion to dismiss the amended complaint. Roger Vinson, senior U.S. District Judge in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida, Pensacola Division, denied the HHS' extension request on May 28.

The HHS has "at their disposal the very substantial resources of the federal government, including numerous attorneys and staff within and outside the U.S. Department of Justice,” wrote Vinson. “[T]hey have both the means and ability to respond to the amended complaint within the time period originally set out in the scheduling order and [an] extension is unwarranted.”

The agency is facing numerous lawsuits concerning the constitutionality of the healthcare reform law, including one from the commonwealth of Virginia. The department offered a 52-page memorandum of law in support of its motion to dismiss the Virginia case. A hearing is set for July 1 in that case.

“The fact that [HHS] have already researched and prepared a substantial motion addressing the legal issues that are relevant to this case further strengthens the conclusion that they should not need additional time to respond to the plaintiffs’ amended complaint,” Vinson concluded.