Monday, July 15, 2019

3rd Circuit Affirms Injunction Against Expanded Contraceptive Mandate Exemptions

In Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. President United States of America, (3d Cir., July 12, 2019), the U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a district court's entry of a nationwide preliminary injunction against enforcement of the Trump Administration's final rules expanding the scope of the exemptions under the Affordable Care Act for employers having religious or moral objections to contraceptive coverage. The court said in part that the agencies involved lacked good cause to dispense with the notice and comment requirements in promulgating the Interim Final Rules expanding the exemptions, and the use of the notice and comment procedure to finalize the rules did not cure the defect.  The court also said:
The Agencies’ effort to cast RFRA as requiring the Religious Exemption is also incorrect. Even assuming that RFRA provides statutory authority for the Agencies to issue regulations to address religious burdens the Contraceptive Mandate may impose on certain individuals, RFRA does not require the enactment of the Religious Exemption to address this burden....
RFRA does not require the broad exemption embodied in the Final Rule nor to make voluntary a notice of the employer’s decision not to provide such coverage to avoid burdening those beliefs.
The Hill reports on the decision and says that an appeal to the Supreme Court is likely.