Washington, DC, United States (4E) – Catholic groups appealed Tuesday to the U.S. Supreme Court to delay the contraceptive mandate of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) as a federal judge in Indiana temporarily stopped the health insurance law’s controversial provision.
The appeal by the archdioceses in Washington, D.C., Tennessee and Michigan – along with affiliated groups that include Catholic University, came a day before the insurance coverage for 2.1 million ACA enrollees takes effect Wednesday.
It also came three days after federal court judge Jon Deguilio for the Northern District Court of Indiana granted the petition of some Catholic hospitals and schools for a temporary injunction against fines for not providing employees insurance coverage for birth control as it infringes on their religious beliefs.
In the appeal, the groups said they did not want to violate the moral law by becoming complicit in acts contrary to Catholic beliefs.
The ACA exempts only churches and houses of worships from the said mandate. Church-run hospitals and parochial schools are required to provide no-cost contraception coverage or have a third-party insurer provide separate benefits without the employer’s direct involvement.
The groups, through the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and its leader Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louiseville, also asked President Barack Obama by letter to exempt religious-affiliated institutions from fines arising from their non-compliance with the contraceptive mandate of the ACA until the Supreme Court rules on the appeal.
On Tuesday, Indiana-based Catholic hospitals group Franciscan Alliance announced that it obtained Friday a preliminary injunction preventing the federal government from imposing the payment for or facilitate access to the Food and Drug Administration-approved contraceptive methods, abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization procedures, and related patient education and counseling.
Deguilio also granted the same injunction to the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Inc., Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Inc., Saint Anne Home and Retirement Community of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Inc., Specialty Physicians of Illinois, LLC, the University of Saint Francis, Our Sunday Visitor, Inc., or their employee insurance plans, plan brokers, plan insurers, or third party administrators. Without the injunction, the appellants would have been fined $100 per day, per employee, starting Jan. 1 for every day of noncompliance with the insurance law.
In its appeal, Franciscan Alliance invoked the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and argued that exemption on churches alone divides the Catholic Church.
The Franciscan Alliance is one of the largest Catholic health care systems in the Midwest with 13 hospital campuses, 20,000 employees and a number of nationally recognized Centers of Health Care Excellence. Hospitals, according to Lake Shore Republic Media.
Grace College and Seminary of Winona Lake, along with Biola University in La Mirada, Calif., also announced Tuesday they had sought and received a preliminary injunction temporarily exempting them from the birth-control insurance mandate of the ACA. Grace and Biola are private evangelical Christian colleges with 168 of its 457 workers and 60 of its 3,100 students enrolled in the school’s health insurance plan.
The Catholic Diocese of Ft. Wayne-South Bend was also allowed to bypass the contraceptive and sterilization coverage to its employees.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Tuesday that about half of the 2.1 million people selected private health insurance plans through the ACA website HealthCare.gov, the federal portal that serves the 36 states that did not set up their own health exchange. The figure covers newly insured people and those dropped from existing plans that don’t meet ACA standards.
In a conference call, Sebelius said 3 million young adults up to age 26 will have coverage through their parents’ plan, and that sicker consumers who used to be denied coverage for having pre-existing medical conditions are covered by the ACA.
In a blog post, Sebelius reminded ACA enrollees to get their insurance card or a temporary card with their new plan’s information and know when their first premium payment is due and pay it by the due date.