Friday, July 22, 2016

RFRA Allows Insured To Refuse Contraceptive Coverage

In Wieland v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, (ED MO, July 21, 2016), a Missouri federal district court enjoined the federal government from enforcing the Affordable Care Act against a couple who, on religious grounds, object to participating in a healthcare plan that provides coverage for contraceptives and similarly object to providing contraceptive coverage to their daughters who are on their health insurance policy. Plaintiff, a Roman Catholic, is a Missouri state legislator and receives health insurance through the state's health care plan.  Finding that plaintiffs have standing because they might be able to find a plan that does not offer contraceptive coverage, the court went on to hold that RFRA bars enforcement of the mandate against plaintiffs, saying in part:
Defendants further argue that “[i]t is not a substantial burden on a person’s religion to subscribe to a group health plan that covers services that the person will not use for religious reasons, or that other individuals covered by the plan will elect, in the exercise of their personal choice, to utilize.” Plaintiffs contend that Defendants’ argument is, in essence, an attack on the sincerity of their religious beliefs, which the Supreme Court most recently in Hobby Lobby cautioned against. This Court agrees. Defendants’ argument is, in effect, an argument that Plaintiffs’ religious beliefs are unreasonable. However, the sincerity of Plaintiffs’ religious beliefs has not been disputed, and it is not for the Court “to say that [Plaintiffs’] religious beliefs are mistaken or insubstantial.”
The court went on to hold that even assuming that the government has a compelling interest in "a workable insurance system that covers a wide range of preventative health services," there are less restrictive means of achieving this goal:
the government could allow a system like that in place in Missouri before the Mandate, where individuals could simply check a box to opt out of contraceptive coverage.
Modern Healthcare reports on the decision. (See prior related posting.) [Thanks to Jeff Pasek for the lead.]