Wednesday, May 22, 2019

States and Cities Sue Administration Over Expanded Health Care Conscience Rules

Yesterday 19 states, the District of Columbia as well as New York City, Chicago and Cook County, Illinois together filed suit in a New York federal district court challenging rules recently adopted by the Department of Health and Human Services (see prior posting) expanding the protection of conscience rights of health care providers. The rules were formally published in the Federal Register yesterday. The 80-page complaint (full text) in State of New York v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, (SD NY, filed 5/21/2019) alleges in part:
This lawsuit challenges a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services regulation that – in an unprecedented and unlawful expansion of nearly thirty federal statutory provisions – would compel the Plaintiff States and local jurisdictions to grant to individual health providers the categorical right to deny lawful and medically necessary treatment, services, and information to patients, based on the provider’s own personal views.... [I]t will undermine the Plaintiffs’ ability to administer their health care systems and deliver patient care effectively and efficiently.
[T]he Final Rule seeks to coerce the Plaintiffs to comply with the Department’s overbroad application of federal law by subjecting the Plaintiffs to ... denial of potentially all federal health care funds if the Department determines... that the Plaintiffs... have failed to comply with the Final Rule... [T]his financial exposure could amount to hundreds of billions of dollars each year.
...The Final Rule far exceeds in scope and substance the underlying federal health care statutes...; conflicts with federal statutes regarding access to health care, informed consent, the provision of emergency medical services, and religious accommodations; violates constitutional safeguards that assign the spending power to Congress and prohibit the Executive Branch from coercing states to implement preferred federal policies; and violates the Establishment Clause by imposing a categorical requirement that Plaintiffs accommodate the religious objections of their employees, whatever the cost.
New York's Attorney General issued a press release announcing the law suit.

Separately, the state of California filed a similar challenge. The complaint (full text) in State of California v. Azar. (ND CA, filed 5/21/2019) is discussed in this press release from the California Attorney General.