The National Law Forum

The Blog of the The National Law Review

Going Before a Higher Power – Nuns Take on Obamacare

On Nov. 6, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the appeals of several religious employers challenging the contraceptive mandate under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA).  The court will consolidate seven cases, the most prominent of which was brought by the Little Sisters of the Poor, an order of Catholic nuns who dedicate their lives to helping the elderly poor.  The other employers include several Catholic dioceses, a religious non-profit group and several Christian colleges.

The contraception mandate requires religious employers who object to providing contraceptive services to notify the government of their objection, which transfers the responsibility of providing those services to the employer’s insurer.  The petitioners argue that this procedure violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act because it effectively forces the employer’s health plan to cover services the employer finds objectionable.  They argue that the government has less restrictive means available to provide these services.

The consolidation of these seven cases is particularly interesting because the employers have varied insurance arrangements.  While some of the employers are insured by large insurance carriers, others are self-insured, or have “church plans” as defined by ERISA.  It is unclear whether these different arrangements will affect the outcomes for the particular employers.

The court is expected to hear oral argument in the case in March 2016.

© 2015 BARNES & THORNBURG LLP

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: