Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
November 30, 2015

Courts Ponder Contraceptive Services and Exchange Subsidies

The Supreme Court ended its current term on June 30 with a decision allowing a closely held for-profit company with strong religious beliefs to avoid the 2010 health care law’s contraceptive services coverage mandate. Controversy over the decision was riled by a separate injunction released by the court on July 3, which allows a Christian college in Illinois to also avoid the contraception mandate.

The two different decisions hinge in part on the Obama administration’s procedure for allowing religious organizations to avoid the coverage mandate by signing a special opt-out form. The court ruled that the private company — Hobby Lobby — should have been afforded a similar waiver, while the separate injunction questions the applicability of the waiver form.  The Illinois college ruling joins a previous temporary injunction given to a group of Colorado nuns, which allows for continuing challenges to the waiver form.

Additionally, lower courts last week — citing the Hobby Lobby decision — extended other waiver form challenges from nonprofit religious groups in Alabama and Wyoming.

Meanwhile, a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., this week could rule — as early as Tuesday — on another legal challenge to the health care overhaul.

The case, Halbig v. Burwell, cites an interpretation of language in the 2010 health care law and challenges the awarding of federal subsidies for insurance policies in states that have not formally set up state health insurance exchanges. A court panel heard oral arguments on the case in March.

CQ HealthBeat reported that the three-judge panel expressed sympathy that the language of the 2010 health care overhaul law could be interpreted as excluding subsidies for federally operated exchanges. A possible decision this week could advance the matter to the Supreme Court’s agenda starting in October.

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