MILWAUKEE (AP) - A conservative group filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday seeking to have the federal health care law declared unconstitutional, arguing that the government postponed its so-called employer mandate without the necessary congressional approval.
The lawsuit came the same day that a congressional panel grilled Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of Health and Human Services, over problems that overwhelmed the government website intended to help people shop for health insurance.
The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons is seeking to have the health care law overturned. The group is seizing on a provision that was supposed to go into effect next year but ultimately was postponed for 12 months. That provision requires employers with 50 or more workers to offer affordable coverage or face fines, but it's been put off until 2015.
That employer mandate was originally to go into effect at the same time as a mandate requiring individuals to carry health insurance or pay fines. The lawsuit argues that since the two aspects have been separated, people will now have to spend more on premiums because they'll be required to buy insurance without the "protection" of the employer mandate.
The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons is a politically active group that favors having patients pay directly for medical services without the intervention of health insurance companies.
It sued on behalf of Robert T. McQueeney, a psychiatrist from northeastern Wisconsin who doesn't accept most forms of insurance and whose clients often pay in cash. If people are paying more for insurance premiums, the association argued, they'll have less cash to spend on medical services such as McQueeney's.
That would prevent patients from getting top-notch care, and it would also take money away from doctors who'd have no way to recover those financial losses, the lawsuit said.
The association has about 5,000 members on its mailing list, about 90 percent of whom are doctors, group spokeswoman Jane Orient said.
"We just want to get the federal government out of medicine and restore control to the patients rather than the bureaucrats," Orient said.
The defendant named in the lawsuit is Daniel Werfel, the commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service, which is implementing the individual mandate. Neither the IRS nor the White House immediately responded to messages Wednesday.
The association argues that the White House bypassed constitutional restrictions when it delayed implementation of the employer mandate. The group alleges the move violates the 10th Amendment and the constitutional separation of powers.
It asks that the health care law be struck down, or at least that the individual mandate not be enforced until the employer mandate is.