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By Jean Hemphill and Brian Pinheiro
In response to the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, Inc., [enhanced opinion available to lexis.com subscribers], the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Labor (DOL) published proposed rules on August 22, 2014, expanding the availability of the religious accommodation to the contraceptive mandate provided in their July 2013 final regulations to closely held for-profit entities.
HHS and DOL and Treasury also published interim final regulations amending the regulations to provide an alternative form of notice of a plan sponsor's religious objection to all or a subset of contraceptive services required to be covered as a preventive services benefit under the Affordable Care Act.
As illustrated by our five earlier legal alerts on this subject, one of the most litigated provisions of the ACA employer plan mandate is the obligation to provide contraceptive services coverage without cost-sharing as a preventive services benefit. In response to strong opposition by certain religious organizations, in July 2013, HHS, DOL, and Treasury adopted final regulations offering an accommodation to the coverage requirement for church and other religious nonprofit employers.
In a slew of lawsuits, organizations eligible and ineligible for the accommodation challenged the adequacy of the relief provided in the final regulations. This June, the U.S. Supreme Court held in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, Inc., that the accommodation also should be made available to closely held for-profit entities with religious objections to the contraceptive mandate. Shortly thereafter, the Supreme Court entered an interim order enjoining the enforcement of the regulation with respect to eligible religious nonprofits in Wheaton College v. Burwell. The interim final and proposed regulations released by the agencies respond to these challenges.
Questions remain whether the amended regulations require a church plan offered by an eligible organization to comply with the coverage and funding mechanisms in the regulations.
As the federal health care reform effort gained steam, Ballard Spahr attorneys established the Health Care Reform Initiative to monitor and analyze legislative developments. With federal health care reform now a reality, our attorneys are assisting health care entities and employers in understanding the relevant changes and planning for the future. They also have launched the Health Care Reform Dashboard, an online resource center for news and analysis on developments under the ACA.
For more information, please contact Jean C. Hemphill at 215.864.8539 or email@example.com or Brian M. Pinheiro at 215.864.8511 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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This alert is a periodic publication of Ballard Spahr LLP and is intended to notify recipients of new developments in the law. It should not be construed as legal advice or legal opinion on any specific facts or circumstances. The contents are intended for general informational purposes only, and you are urged to consult your own attorney concerning your situation and specific legal questions you have.
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