Supreme Court will hear ACA con­tra­cep­tion cov­er­age case

Modern Healthcare - - LATE NEWS - —Lisa Schencker

The Supreme Court will hear yet an­other chal­lenge to the Af­ford­able Care Act. It comes from reli­gious not-for-profit groups op­posed to Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion pol­icy that re­quires them to sub­mit a form to their third-party ad­min­is­tra­tor or pro­vide in­for­ma­tion to HHS so the gov­ern­ment can ar­range con­tra­cep­tion cov­er­age for their em­ploy­ees.

The jus­tices de­cided Fri­day to hear parts of seven cases filed by the groups, which want to opt out of the ACA’s con­tra­cep­tion cov­er­age man­date. The plain­tiffs say the re­port­ing re­quire­ments make them com­plicit in pro­vid­ing birth con­trol in vi­o­la­tion of their reli­gious be­liefs.

The gov­ern­ment has ar­gued in court doc­u­ments that the re­port­ing re­quire­ments do not im­pose a sub­stan­tial bur­den on the groups, and that the courts should not dis­re­gard the “sig­nif­i­cant in­ter­est of em­ploy­ees who may not share” their em­ploy­ers’ reli­gious be­liefs.

Seven fed­eral ap­pel­late courts have sided with the gov­ern­ment’s po­si­tion, while one has sided with the reli­gious groups. The plain­tiffs in­clude the Lit­tle Sis­ters of the Poor, an or­der of nuns that operates nurs­ing homes in sev­eral states.

Mark Rienzi, a lawyer for the Becket Fund for Reli­gious Lib­erty that is back­ing the Lit­tle Sis­ters case, said the gov­ern­ment will have to ex­plain why it’s “forc­ing nuns” to help their em­ploy­ees get con­tra­cep­tion. Oral ar­gu­ments likely will take place in March.

But Dou­glas Lay­cock, a law pro­fes­sor at the Univer­sity of Vir­ginia, said the reli­gious groups “are not just try­ing to ex­empt them­selves from pro­vid­ing con­tra­cep­tion, they’re try­ing to pre­vent their sec­u­lar in­sur­ers from pro­vid­ing con­tra­cep­tion as well, and I don’t think the court is go­ing to go that far.”

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