ACA con­tra­cep­tion rules in high court show­down

Modern Healthcare - - THE WEEK AHED - —Joe Carl­son

The na­tion’s high­est court this week hears the lat­est chal­lenge to the Af­ford­able Care Act, this time from em­ploy­ers claim­ing its man­dates vi­o­late re­li­gious free­dom.

The Jus­tice Depart­ment’s top lit­i­ga­tor, Don­ald Ver­rilli Jr., will de­fend ACA rules re­quir­ing pri­vate firms’ in­sur­ance plans to cover all forms of con­tra­cep­tion. Lawyers rep­re­sent­ing the firms in Se­be­lius v. Hobby Lobby and Con­estoga Wood Spe­cial­ties v. Se­be­lius say those rules vi­o­late their re­li­gious be­liefs. They con­sider sev­eral birth­con­trol meth­ods to be forms of abor­tion, in­clud­ing the morn­ing-af­ter pill and in­trauter­ine de­vices.

“Can the govern­ment force en­ti­ties or in­di­vid­u­als to take ac­tions that vi­o­late their sincerely held re­li­gious be­liefs?” says a friend-of-the-court brief from the U.S. Con­fer­ence of Catholic Bish­ops. “Un­der the Re­li­gious Free­dom Restora­tion Act, the an­swer is clearly no.”

At­tor­neys for the Jus­tice Depart­ment will ar­gue the re­li­gious free­dom law doesn’t al­low com­pa­nies to deny em­ploy­ees their rights un­der the ACA. “Re­spon­dents in­sist that the health, dig­nity and lib­erty in­ter­ests of the cor­po­rate re­spon­dents’ own 13,000 em­ploy­ees—who may not share re­spon­dents’ be­liefs — ‘should be ir­rel­e­vant,’” Ver­rilli’s at­tor­neys wrote. “To the con­trary, when a party seeks a re­li­gious ex­emp­tion from a neu­tral law, the po­ten­tial im­pact on third par­ties is at the very core of the anal­y­sis.”

A re­lated se­ries of cases that may also reach the Supreme Court asks whether re­li­giously af­fil­i­ated not-for­prof­its, like Catholic nurs­ing homes and hos­pi­tals, can be forced to sign forms opt­ing out of the con­tra­cep­tion-cov­er­age rules. About one-sixth of hospi­tal beds in Amer­ica are housed in Catholic-owned fa­cil­i­ties.

In an­other chal­lenge to the ACA, judges on the U.S. Court of Ap­peals for the D.C. Cir­cuit on Tues­day will hear ar­gu­ments in the fast-tracked ap­peal of Hal­big v. Se­be­lius, where crit­ics claimed a poorly drafted sec­tion of the law meant people liv­ing in the 36 states us­ing the fed­er­ally run ex­change were not el­i­gi­ble for sub­si­dies. So far, two lower-court federal judges sided with the In­ter­nal Rev­enue Ser­vice, which ad­min­is­ters the ACA sub­sidy pro­gram.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.