The Federal Appeals Court in Chicago upheld a suit brought by two for-profit companies against the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) requirement that employers must provide, as part of their health plan for their employees, coverage for birth control expenses. On November 8, a split Seventh Circuit Court panel issued a temporary injunction blocking the enforcement of the birth-control mandate in the new health care reform bill, often referred to as ObamaCare. The decision is unique in that an injunction was issued. For a court to take such an action, it must find the Plaintiffs are likely to prevail on their claim.
The Seventh Circuit decision involved two separate challenges that came up through the lower courts, one by a Madison, Indiana company that makes vehicle safety systems, Grote Industries, Inc., and the six Grote family members who together own the company and its parent corporation, and a second challenge by a construction company in Highland, Illinois, Korte & Luitjohan Contractors Inc., and its two owners. Their challenges were brought under the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). In its majority opinion the 7th Circuit stated: “We hold that the plaintiffs — the business owners and their companies — may challenge the mandate. We further hold that compelling them to cover those services substantially burdens their religious-exercise rights. Under RFRA the government must justify the burden under the standard of strict scrutiny. So far it has not done so, and we doubt that it can.” The majority ruling found protection for both the religious preferences of corporations and their individual owners, when the companies are closely held.
Five federal circuit courts have now issued rulings on the constitutional challenges, at least in preliminary decisions on the enforcement issue: the Third, Sixth, Seventh, Tenth, and D.C. Circuits. The Third and Sixth rejected the challenges. The split among these courts practically assures that the Supreme Court will agree to take on the issue, both as to corporations and to their owners.
This decision now adds more uncertainty as to what exactly employers must do to comply with the ACA. Also, more provisions of the ACA become effective as of January 1, 2014, while others take effect later. If you as an employer are confused or need some advice on how to structure your health plan, either in relation to the birth control mandate or any other provision of the ACA, do not hesitate to contact the leader of Rothberg Logan & Warsco’s health care practice, Dennis Dykhuizen.
The Legal Alert is for general information purposes only, and is not intended as legal, tax or accounting advice or as recommendations to engage in any specific transaction and does not purport to be comprehensive. Under no circumstances should any information contained in this Legal Alert be used or considered as an offer or commitment, or a solicitation of an offer or commitment, to participate in any particular transaction or strategy. Any reliance upon any such information is solely and exclusively at your own risk. Please consult your own counsel, accountant or other advisor regarding your specific situation. Rothberg Logan & Warsco LLP will not be responsible for any consequences of reliance upon any opinion or statement contained here, or any omission.