Missouri is among many Republican-leaning states that have put restrictions on these groups, including a requirement that they get licenses before they can help with the enrollment process. Proponents of the restrictions maintain that they protect consumers.
Supporters of the law have complained that additional requirements imposed by states, such as Missouri, are unnecessary and designed primarily to impede enrollment in health coverage. Many of the law's critics have urged people not to sign up for insurance.
The Missouri case was brought by eight plaintiffs, including
U.S. District Judge Ortrie D. Smith said the restrictions were problematic for these two groups because Missouri, like 35 other states, has asked the federal government to operate its marketplace. (The remaining states are running their own marketplaces, or exchanges, as they are sometimes called.)
"It seems obvious these additional requirements obstruct the federal government's operation of the federal facilitated exchange," wrote Smith, who was appointed to the bench by President Clinton.
"Having made the choice to leave the operation of the exchange to the federal government, Missouri cannot choose to impose additional requirements or limitations on the exchanges," he concluded.
A spokeswoman for Missouri's attorney general said the office was reviewing the ruling.
Smith's preliminary injunction in the case -- St. Louis Effort for AIDS, et al vs. Huff -- does not dismiss it entirely. Nor does Smith's ruling apply to other states that have imposed similar restrictions on community organizations, although it may help fuel challenges to these laws.
In another advance for the health law, Utah Gov.
[For the Record, Jan. 23, 3:05 p.m. An earlier version of this post referred to the governor of Utah as Bob Herbert. He is Gary R. Herbert.]