Supreme Court Allows Employers to Withhold Employee Birth Control Access
All Employers subject to the ACA
July 8, 2020
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In Little Sisters of the Poor Saints Peter and Paul Home v. Pennsylvania, U.S. Supreme Court stated that employers may refuse to provide contraception coverage in healthcare plans based on a sincere religious or moral objection. This ends the nationwide preliminary injunction prohibiting employers from taking advantage of the interim and final rules that permitted these exemptions to the general rule that health plans must provide coverage for all FDA approved contraception methods.
Ultimately, the Court stated that the Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor, and the Treasury (Departments) had discretion to exempt religious employers, such as churches, from being required to provide contraceptive coverage to employees. Additionally, there were no procedural errors in how the Departments promulgated the two rules at issue. The first significantly expanded the church exemption to include an employer that “objects . . . based on its sincerely held religious beliefs,” “to its establishing, maintaining, providing, offering, or arranging [for] coverage or payments for some or all contraceptive services.” The second rule created a similar “moral exemption” for employers with sincerely held moral objections to providing some or all forms of contraceptive coverage.
However, the case is not over. It is being remanded back to the lower court for continued litigation, including a determination of whether the exemptions can survive the administrative law requirement of “reasoned decisionmaking” when agencies issue rules. Continue to look for further rulings on this issue.
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