A federal judge ruled Thursday that the federal government has the authority to force all Americans to buy health insurance.
The ruling came in a Michigan lawsuit filed by four plaintiffs who said President Barack Obama's health care law violates the U.S. Constitution.
U.S. District Court Judge George Caram Steeh upheld that it's legal to require Americans to buy insurance and to fine them for skipping coverage.
"Without the minimum coverage provision, there would be an incentive for some individuals to wait to purchase health insurance until they needed care, knowing that insurance would be available at all times," the judge said.
"As a result, the most costly individuals would be in the insurance system and the least costly would be outside it," Steeh said. "In turn, this would aggravate current problems with cost-shifting and lead to even higher premiums."
The Justice Department hailed Steeh's opinion as the first time a "court has considered the merits of any challenge to this law."
"The court found that the minimum coverage provision of the statute was a reasonable means for Congress to take in reforming our health care system," spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler said. "The department will continue to vigorously defend this law in ongoing litigation."
The four plaintiffs in Michigan are uninsured. Also, they fear the financial penalty for not buying insurance could be used to pay for abortions.
The attorney who filed the lawsuit said he would take the case to a federal appeals court in Cincinnati.
Similar challenges to the health care law are pending in courts across the U.S.