SCOTUS Tells Lower Court To Reconsider ACA Contraception Case
On Monday, the Supreme Court ruled that a lower court should reconsider its ruling in a case challenging the Affordable Care Act's contraceptive coverage requirement, in light of the high court's ruling in Hobby Lobby v. Burwell, The Hill reports.
Under the ACA's contraceptive coverage rules, employers are required to offer health insurance plans that include contraception at no cost. Houses of worship are exempt from the requirement (Ferris, The Hill, 4/27).
Meanwhile, there is an accommodation under the ACA's contraceptive coverage rules that applies to not-for-profits that hold themselves out as religious and oppose contraception. To claim the accommodation, the not-for-profits may either complete a form to send to the insurers or third-party administrators or send a letter to HHS stating that they object to offering contraceptive coverage in their health plans. HHS announced the latter option in August 2014 in an effort to address ongoing court challenges over the rules (California Healthline, 8/25/14).
In June 2014, the Supreme Court in the Hobby Lobby case ruled in a 5-4 decision that closely held corporations cannot be required to provide contraceptive coverage to their employees if the corporations' owners have religious objections to contraception (California Healthline, 7/1/14).
In the case, Michigan Catholic Conference v. Burwell, not-for-profit Catholic ministries in Michigan and Tennessee are seeking exemption to the financial penalties they face by refusing to provide contraceptive coverage in their employee health insurance plans. The groups have said the procedure for obtaining an exemption imposes an "unjustified substantial burden" (The Hill, 4/27). The groups also argue that the notification process causes them to violate their religious beliefs (Howell, Washington Times, 4/27). Further, the groups are seeking the same exemption measures afforded to houses of worship (The Hill, 4/27).
In Monday's decision, the Supreme Court told the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to reconsider its ruling, which backed the federal government. The 6th Circuit had ruled in Michigan Catholic Conference prior to the Hobby Lobby decision. The Supreme Court made a similar move in March in a case involving the University of Notre Dame.
Courts that have ruled on the topic following the Hobby Lobby decision all have ruled for the government, according to Reuters. The courts have found that the exemption process does not impose a substantial burden on challengers' religious beliefs (Hurley, Reuters, 4/27).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.