By Hadley Heath
The Supreme Court just announced that it will hear a new challenge to ObamaCare's mandate that all employers provide first-dollar coverage for all FDA-approved contraceptives. This case is a lot like the one brought last summer by Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., but this time, the challengers are non-profit groups including hospitals, universities, and charities. Because of their religious affiliations and convictions, these groups do not want to be a part of providing contraceptives that they find morally objectionable.
One of these groups is Little Sisters of the Poor, a group of Catholic nuns who care for the sick and elderly poor. These sisters have taken vows of chastity, meaning not only do they oppose birth control, but they have no need of it. IWF is proud to be supportive of their case through the amicus brief that we filed this summer. Here's an excerpt from our brief:
As with the Hobby Lobby case, this case is about more than contraception. It is about the principles of liberty that animate our Constitution. It is about empowering women to choose the healthcare and salary options that best fit their needs. And it is about empowering charitable employers, many lead by women, to follow their deeply held religious convictions—regardless of the form of their charitable entity. Women do not check their religious liberty rights at the office door.
The Obama Administration has made a blanket exception to this mandate for churches, but for other religious non-profits, they offered a so-called accommodation: Instead of directly providing insurance coverage for the drugs and devices in question, the non-profit employers must sign paperwork instructing a third party to provide the coverage to their employees.
This is troubling not just because it burdens the religious freedom of non-profit employers, but because it puts the federal government in a place it doesn't belong, deciding who is sufficiently "religious enough" to get an exemption. We might all think that surely nuns are religious enough, but it's government making this distinction in the first place that is troubling.
It's good news that the Court has decided to take up this case. If the Court applies the same logic as in Hobby Lobby v. Burwell, they will see that the non-profit employers are facing a substantial burden to their religious freedom, even under the "accommodation," and that there is a better way for the government to attempt to provide broad access to contraceptives.
It is suprising that the Obama Administration has not yet realized this: They lost in Hobby Lobby, and these other cases have been working their way through district and appellate courts for years now. Did they not see this coming? Now they will have to deal with the optics of facing nuns, hospitals, universities, and other religious charities in Court. These charities do so much good in society; they simply want no part in ObamaCare's contraception mandate. But the Obama Administration would prefer to shut them down, through backbreaking fines for noncompliance, than allow them to continue providing education and healthcare services to those most in need. Mind-blowing.
By Hadley Heath
In a unique challenge to the Affordable Care Act, plaintiff Matt Sissel has alleged that the individual mandate is unconstitutional and furthermore that the entire law is unconstitutional because it originated in the Senate, not the U.S. House, where revenue-raising bills must originate. We've covered this Origination Clause challenge since its inception.
Today the nonprofit handling litigation for Sissel, the Pacific Legal Foundation, has filed a petition for certiorari with the Supreme Court. The case started in federal district court and was last heard in the D.C. Court of Appeals, where a panel of three judges ruled against the plaintiff. Now he is appealing to the only court left who can hear his case.
Here is what the Pacific Legal Foundation said about today's landmark filing:
Pacific Legal Foundation and Matt Sissel are asking the Supreme Court to accept our challenge to Obamacare, in order to uphold and enforce the Constitution’s safeguards against arbitrary taxation, and to liberate Americans from a harmful law that was imposed in defiance of those procedures and protections.
You can read more about this case here.
Today's filing is already getting some attention in the news media. At HealthCareLawsuits.org, we will keep you posted on this case and any others challenging ObamaCare.
By Hadley Heath
Yet another effort from the Administration to squash the House-led lawsuit against ObamaCare's "cost-sharing" provision has failed. District court judge Rosemary Collyer ruled last month to deny the Administration's motion to dismiss the case. The Administration sought an immediate appeal of this decision, but the court denied this request and instead set a briefing schedule for the case to continue. Oral arguments have been set for January 18, 2016.
"Suffice it to say, the Court is not convinced it erred," Collyer wrote. "Defendants will have a chance to make their argument to the Court of Appeals; the only question is whether they may do so now."
At issue in the case is the so-called "cost sharing" provisions that require insurance companies offering health plans through the law to reduce the out-of-pocket costs for policy holders who qualify. The government offsets the added costs to insurance companies by reimbursing them, but the lawmakers say that Congress did not properly approve the money for those reimbursements.
"I'm pleased with today's ruling," Boehner said in a statement. "The court has previously ruled that the House does, in fact, have standing to challenge one of the president's unilateral actions with regard to Obamacare... It's another important step toward holding the president accountable for his unconstitutional actions."
Stay tuned to Health Care Lawsuits for more updates about this case as oral argument approaches in January.
By Hadley Heath
Thursday a federal judge ruled that a lawsuit filed by the U.S. House of Representatives can proceed. This lawsuit, which I've covered here before, alleges that the executive branch of of government overstepped its authority. Specifically, the claims of the lawsuit include the paying out billions of dollars to health insurance companies without Congressional approval and unilateral delay of ObamaCare's employer mandate.
Importantly, this latest decision from district court Judge Rosemary Collyer is not a ruling in favor of House Republicans. It only allows the case to move forward. In legalese, this is a denial of the defendant's motion to dismiss the case. But the decision did reject one aspect of the case: the employer mandate delay.
Critics of this lawsuit say it's all about politics, and that it's inappropriate for the House to use the court system to push back on ObamaCare in this way. But House leaders defend the suit, saying the executive branch is exceeding its constitutional authority, and arguing that as a coequal branch of government, it makes sense for them to sue.
You can read more about the latest events in this lawsuit in this report from The Hill.
By Hadley Heath
Today the U.S. Supreme Court released its opinions in King v. Burwell, the case about whether the IRS had authority to disperse federal subsidies in states that did not establish their own exchanges.
Justices Roberts, Kennedy, Ginsberg, Breyer, Kagan and Sotomayor comprised the majority. The other three Justices (Scalia, Thomas, Alito) dissented. Here's the bottom line: The majority ruled that the IRS, when it sent out subsidies on behalf of consumers in non-establishing states, had the right interpretation of the law. If it is any good news, the Court did NOT say that it was up to the IRS to make this interpretation, but rather the agency's interpretation was the correct one. Justice Roberts, who wrote the majority opinion (link to all opinions here), relied heavily on the purpose of the law, but did not rule that the Chevron deference principle was applicable here.
Here is my statement on today's ruling, from the Bridge to Better Health Care project:
“It’s important to understand that today’s decision was strictly about a technical interpretation regarding the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, and had nothing to do with the merits of the law which, more than five years after its implementation, the American people continue to oppose. The public has already suffered too long under this law and its broken promises. Even after no fewer than 50 major changes, many by executive fiat, it remains fundamentally broken and no amount of band-aids or tweaks will make it acceptable to the public.
“Now, we need to move forward to lay the foundations for consensus on a better plan and the political environment toimplement it. We can’t just settle for short-term fixes. Many of the biggest harms are yet to come, with fines doubling next year for individuals who don’t buy mandated insurance and all but the smallest businesses facing penalties and fines from the employer mandate. And that doesn’t count the significant increases topremiums and deductibles if one does comply."
Basically, it is now clearly up to the legislative and executive branches to change health policy. The Supreme Court has shown once again that it will uphold ObamaCare as it is currently being implemented.