WASHINGTON — House Republicans filed a long-threatened lawsuit Friday against the Obama administration over unilateral actions on the health care law that they say are abuses of the president’s executive authority.
The lawsuit — filed against the secretaries of Health and Human Services and the Treasury — focuses on two crucial aspects of the way the administration has put the Affordable Care Act into effect.
The suit accuses the Obama administration of unlawfully postponing a requirement that larger employers offer health coverage to their full-time employees or pay penalties. (Larger companies are defined as those with 50 or more employees.)
In July 2013, the administration deferred that requirement until 2015. Seven months later, the administration announced a further delay, until 2016, for employers with 50 to 99 employees.
The suit also challenges what it says is President Obama’s unlawful giveaway of roughly $ 175 billion to insurance companies under the law. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the administration will pay that amount to the companies over the next 10 years, though the funds have not been appropriated by Congress. The lawsuit argues that it is an unlawful transfer of funds.
That issue involves subsidies known as cost-sharing reductions, which the federal government pays to insurers on behalf of people whose incomes range from the poverty threshold to two and a half times the poverty threshold ($ 11,670 to $ 29,175 a year for an individual).
If the lawsuit is successful, poor people would not lose their health care, because the insurance companies would still be required to provide coverage — but without the help of the government subsidy, the companies might be forced to raise costs elsewhere.
The subsidies reduce the co-payments, deductibles and other out-of-pocket costs that consumers incur when they go to doctors and hospitals.
Democrats have cast a legal challenge as strange. Republicans, they say, are attacking Mr. Obama for delaying enforcement of a law that they vehemently oppose.
The health care law was passed in 2010 without any Republican votes, and House Republicans have voted dozens of times to repeal all or part of it.
Speaking to reporters aboard Air Force One, Eric Schultz, the White House deputy press secretary, called the lawsuit announced by Speaker John A. Boehner “unfortunate.”
“At a time where we — I think the American people want Washington focused on jobs and the economy, the House Republicans choose to sue us, sue the president for doing his job — and using taxpayer resources at the same time — for a lawsuit that their own congressional research service could not identify any merit for,” Mr. Schultz said.
Mr. Boehner has been talking about suing the president since the summer, and in July, House Republicans passed a resolution authorizing the House to legally challenge Mr. Obama over the use of his executive authority to change parts of the health care law.
House Republicans struggled to find a law firm willing to take their case. Two withdrew, but on Tuesday, Mr. Boehner hired Jonathan Turley, a professor at George Washington University.