Thursday, March 21, 2019

ACA Mandate Does Not Violate RFRA

In Cash v. United States, (MD PA, March 20, 2019), a Pennsylvania federal district court rejected an attack on the Affordable Care Act's tax penalties for failing to purchase health insurance. Plaintiff taxpayers had religious objections to purchasing medical insurance and contended that the penalties substantially burdened their religious exercise under RFRA (see prior posting). The court disagreed, saying in part:
The Magistrate Judge ... found that the burden imposed on Plaintiffs was de minimis.... RFRA prohibits substantial burdens on the free exercise of religion absent a compelling governmental interest achieved by the least restrictive means.... Describing the thousands of dollars Plaintiffs have paid in ACA penalties since 2014 as de minimis may not be fair. However, that does not render the penalties substantially burdensome, either. Plaintiffs offer no indication that they are forced to decide between their religious beliefs and a benefit generally available. Moreover, Plaintiffs do not allege or otherwise show that the ACA penalty places a substantial burden on them to modify their religious conduct.... [T]he cost of the penalty would not exceed the cost to obtain the required level of insurance. Plaintiffs do not indicate how this applies substantial pressure to forego their religious beliefs. Staying true to their religion and avoiding health insurance would cost no more, and potentially cost less, than purchasing insurance at the expense of their religious beliefs.