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Texas Doctor Sues U.S. Over Affordable Health Care Act

May 7 (Bloomberg) -- A Texas doctor sued the U.S. over President Barack Obama’s health-care law on claims the U.S. Supreme Court overlooked when it upheld the Affordable Care Act.

Steven Hotze of Houston claims the law violates the U.S. Constitution’s origination and takings clauses, which weren’t part of arguments before the Supreme Court. The high court upheld the act last year by a 5-to-4 vote.

Hotze’s suit, filed today in federal court in Houston, targets the “shared responsibility payment” business owners must pay the U.S. if they don’t provide government-approved minimum coverage for workers. The penalty kicks in on Jan. 1.

“Obamacare has become a redistribution of wealth scheme, where people are compelled to pay money to other people,” Hotze’s lawyer, Andy Schlafly, said in a telephone interview. “The government isn’t allowed to order one private party, a business owner, to pay money to another private party, an insurance company.”

These payments, which Hotze claims the Supreme Court upheld under Congress’s power to levy taxes, are “expected to raise about $4 billion per year by 2017” for the U.S. Treasury, according to the complaint.

This feature violate the Constitution’s origination clause because the measure didn’t originate as a “revenue-raising bill” in the U.S. House of Representatives and was instead crafted from a gutted Senate bill, according to the complaint.

Law Professor

Timothy Jost, a law professor at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia, said the provision isn’t illegal or unusual.

“We have many statutes that require employers to do things for employees, and they’ve been routinely upheld,” Jost said today in a telephone interview. “All that Congress is requiring is that businesses cover their employees or pay a tax.”

Hotze, in a telephone interview, said insurance carriers have quoted him prices for providing government-approved health insurance to the 73 employees of his “wellness” practice that are “50 to 100 percent” higher than his current plan, which doesn’t meet the new standard.

“We have to go back to the Supreme Court with this,” Hotze said of the Affordable Care Act. “If we don’t have a case before them, they can’t overturn it. And Obamacare is going to be a train wreck.”

Conservative Republican

Hotze, a frequent Republican donor and president of the Conservative Republicans of Texas, specializes in alternative therapies, according to his website. His attorney is the son of conservative Republican activist Phyllis Schlafly.

The suit names U.S. Health & Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew in their official capacities.

Wyn Hornbuckle, a Justice Department spokesman, had no immediate comment on the lawsuit.

The case is Hotze v. Sebelius, 4:13-cv-1318, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Texas (Houston).

To contact the reporter on this story: Laurel Brubaker Calkins in Houston at laurel@calkins.us.com.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net.

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