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U.S. health care lawsuit expedited by Atlanta appeals court

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ATLANTA—(Bloomberg) An appeals court Friday put on an expedited schedule the federal government's appeal of a judge's decision that the health care reform law was unconstitutional.

The 11th U.S. Circuit of Appeals granted a U.S. Justice Department request to speed consideration of the Obama administration's bid to reverse U.S. District Court Judge C. Roger Vinson's Jan. 31 ruling in the lawsuit, which was brought by 26 states.

Judge Vinson, based in Pensacola, Fla., decided that a provision in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act requiring most Americans to enroll in a qualified health care plan starting in 2014 was unconstitutional. Deeming that mandate inseparable from the legislation, he declared the entire measure invalid.

Twenty-five states joined in the lawsuit filed a year ago by then-Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum. The states have told the court they will challenge rulings by Judge Vinson narrowing the issues in the case.

Briefs in the case have a May 25 deadline, the appeals court's chief judge, Joel F. Dubina, said in his order.

The court hasn't ruled yet on a request by five of the states to argue the case before the entire active roster of judges rather than a three-judge panel.

Copyright 2011 Bloomberg