Modern Healthcare - - LEGAL -

The plain­tiffs in seven sep­a­rate but sim­i­lar cases have pe­ti­tioned the Supreme Court to hear ar­gu­ments about why they be­lieve re­li­gious not-for-prof­its shouldn’t have to no­tify in­sur­ers or the gov­ern­ment when they want to opt out of the Af­ford­able Care Act’s re­quire­ment that em­ploy­ers cover birth con­trol for their em­ploy­ees.

The Supreme Court has not yet said whether it will hear any of the cases, but not all cir­cuit courts agree on the is­sue, mak­ing a hear­ing likely.

In­stead of di­rectly pro­vid­ing cov­er­age to em­ploy­ees, the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion has said not-for-profit re­li­gious or­ga­ni­za­tions may sub­mit a form to their third-party ad­min­is­tra­tors, or pro­vide in­for­ma­tion to HHS, so the gov­ern­ment can ar­range con­tra­cep­tion cov­er­age. The re­li­gious not-for-prof­its, how­ever, say sub­mit­ting those forms or no­ti­fy­ing HHS would make them com­plicit in pro­vid­ing birth con­trol, a vi­o­la­tion of their re­li­gious be­liefs.

It’s not clear which of the seven cases the court might take. The most prom­i­nent of the cases so far has been Lit­tle Sis­ters of the Poor v. Sebelius. But the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion is urg­ing the Supreme Court to a hear dif­fer­ent case on the is­sue, Ro­man Catholic Arch­bishop of Washington v. Bur­well, say­ing it presents a fuller range of is­sues and health cov­er­age ar­range­ments that could be af­fected. Un­like King v. Bur­well, none of the cases presents a threat to the fu­ture of the ACA over­all. The cases do, how­ever, speak to re­li­gious-free­dom is­sues.

“It will tell us a lot about how hard the gov­ern­ment has to work to ac­com­mo­date re­li­gious be­liefs, even re­li­gious be­liefs that strike non­be­liev­ers as sort of finicky,” the Univer­sity of Michigan’s Ba­gley said.


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