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Feds want clarification of Florida health care ruling

Shortly after a Florida judge ruled the federal health care reform legislation unconstitutional, Florida sent back to the federal government $2 million in grants intended to help put some elements of the law in place.

Federal officials, though, want U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson to clarify his ruling. In a motion filed in Pensacola today, the U.S. Department of Justice asked Vinson to confirm that the court did not intend to end programs currently in effect, such as small business tax credits and grants awarded to states to help with health care costs. The money Florida received would have been used to plan a system where consumers can comparison shop for health plans and to develop a resource for consumers to monitor insurance rate changes and how premiums are spent.

"We believe it is important to put to rest any doubts about the ability of states and other parties to continue to implement these critical programs and consumer protections provided under this statute," said Tracy Schmaler, a spokeswoman for the Department of Justice. 

Vinson ruled late last month that the so-called "individual mandate" that requires people to buy health insurance or pay a tax penalty is unconstitutional, and therefore the entire legislation is unconstitutional. The federal government plans to appeal the ruling. Florida was joined in its lawsuit against the legislation by 25 other states.