Published March 30, 2010
First, do no harm. Second, sue the government.
With the president's ink barely dry on the health care overhaul's final fixes, a group of nearly 5,000 American physicians is filing suit to stop the mammoth new law dead in its tracks.
"I think this bill that passed threatens not only to destroy our freedom in medicine but to bankrupt the country," said Dr. Jane Orient, executive director of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons.
The Arizona-based medical coalition filed suit on March 26, arguing that congressional reforms illegally coerce individuals into buying insurance from private companies.
Starting in 2014, anyone who chooses not to buy health insurance faces a small federal penalty, but in 2016 the fine jumps to $695 a year per person or 2.5 percent of overall income, whichever is greater. That means that anyone earning more than $27,800 would be subject to increasing penalties, with a maximum fine of $2,085 per family.
Supporters of the law call it a simple tax meant to shore up coverage nationwide; but the AAPS says the mandate is an "unprecedented overreach" — an unconstitutional grab that rewards insurance companies and allows the federal government to seize private property in violation of the 5th Amendment.
Insurers "will have millions of new, unwilling customers that they wouldn't have gotten," said Orient, an internist based in Tuscon. "They're counting on getting all this new money."
Though legal challenges to the new law are popping up nationwide, the conservative-leaning AAPS is the only medical society to file suit against the health care package. The American Medical Association, the largest physicians' group in the U.S., supported the health care overhaul and lobbied on its behalf.
Orient says she hopes more groups will join her suit, and predicts a shortage of doctors as the medical community adjusts to the new law.
"We need to get back to the old-fashioned style of medicine where doctors worked for their patients and patients paid their doctors," she said.