Health Insurance Law's Mandates Face Growing Opposition
The Obama Administration’s Affordable Care Act is boiling up on multiple burners this winter and the results will have far-reaching impact on Americans.
To begin with, the Catholic Bishops in America are reacting forcefully to the administration’s planned mandate that insurance providers, including religious organizations, cover the costs of contraceptive drugs and devices.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued the new policy last year and has re-iterated them several times since. Department Secretary Kathleen Sebelius described the contraceptive guidelines as “historic . . . based on science and existing literature and will help ensure women get the preventive health benefits they need.” However, religious institutions and others have condemned the action and said requiring them to essentially fund efforts to prevent or end pregnancies with an abortion is a violation of their consciences.
During the weekend, for instance, the Catholic Church in the United States distributed a letter denouncing the contraceptive policy and saying the Church “will not comply with this unjust law.” The letter goes on to state that the law denies Americans their religious liberty and unless the rule is overturned, Catholics will be compelled to either violate their consciences or drop health coverage of their employees.
In response to the protests from a variety of organizations, HHS offered to delay implementation of the contraceptive rule for another year giving these institutions time to consider how to best comply with the law.
And while the contraceptive mandate is likely to get the attention of the federal courts, the highest court is hearing preliminary arguments concerning the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act. Twenty-six states and the National Foundation of Independent Business (NFIB) have challenged the legality of the Act’s mandate that all Americans purchase health care by 2014. However, late last week, attorneys representing the administration argued that those states and parties have failed to prove that the entire law should be overturned if the mandate is found to be unconstitutional.
“Many provisions of the act focused on controlling costs, improving health and other objectives, have no connection to insurance coverage at all,” said Solicitor General Donald Verrilli. He suggested the Congress directed that certain provisions of the law take affect prior to the actual starting date for the law in 2014 because it saw these aspects of the reform effort separate from the insurance regulations. A spokesperson for the NFIB said the relationship between the overall law and the mandate is unmistakable and if the Supreme Court strikes down the mandate, the pillar of the Affordable Care Act will fall as well rendering the whole law unconstitutional.
The case will officially come before the court the end of March with a June decision expected.