Thursday, February 16, 2012

Revised Contraceptive Coverage Mandate Challenged In Lawsuit

The first lawsuit to challenge the Obama Administration's revised health care reform mandate on insurance coverage for contraceptive services was filed yesterday by Priests for Life, an organization with 50 to 60 employees. The complaint (full text) in Priests for Life v. Sebelius, (ED NY, filed 2/15/2012), claims that the group's free exercise and free speech rights, as well as its rights under RFRA are violated by the mandate requiring its health insurance policy to cover contraceptive services. The suit also claims violations of the Administrative Procedure Act.  Focusing for the first time in litigation on the Obama administration's new framework that calls for insurance companies to provide contraceptive coverage without charge when a religious employer has moral or religious objections to paying for such coverage, the complaint alleges:
There is no logical or moral distinction between the original contraceptive services mandate and the “revised” regulation announced on February 10, 2011. Employers who offer health insurance do not pay for individual benefits and products as they are provided. Rather, they pay a premium for a policy that gives their employees access to covered benefits and products when they need them. Under the “revised” regulation, all non-exempted health plans must include contraceptive services among their covered benefits. The choice for religious employers is still between paying an insurer to provide their employees with access to a product that violates their convictions (i.e., contraceptives, sterilization, and abortifacients) or paying a large annual fine to the federal government.
A press release from the American Freedom Law Center reported on the filing of the suit.