Under the Affordable Care Act of 2010, the Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate requires employers to cover contraception in their employees’ healthcare plans, without a co-pay or deductible. Churches and houses of worship are held exempt from the mandate. Additionally, religious-affiliated organizations, such as hospitals and charities, are not required to pay for contraception; however, their insurance companies must make it available.
As many feel this mandate violates their deeply held religious beliefs, the HHS mandate has set off a legal firestorm. Currently, there are 40 lawsuits with 110 plaintiffs representing hospitals, universities, businesses, schools, and individuals. These litigants primarily argue that the mandate violates their constitutionally protected freedom of religion and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
Proponents of the HHS mandate assert that denying women these forms of coverage would constitute gender discrimination. Further, with respect to for-profit companies, proponents claim these companies have no religious liberty rights on which to base a freedom of religion claim.
To date, the opponents to the HHS mandate have found limited success. A handful of courts have issued injunctions, meaning the plaintiffs are not required to implement the mandate right away. However, with 40 lawsuits pending, new complaints being filed, and multiple appeals on the legal horizon, it’s safe to say the debate over the HHS mandate is far from over.
NOTE: This general summary of the law should not be used to solve individual problems since slight changes in the fact situation may require a material variance in the applicable legal advice.
Kristen L. Fitchko is an attorney with Krugliak, Wilkins, Griffiths & Dougherty Co., L.P.A.