Catching the parties by surprise, but making no official decision, the Supreme Court ruled earlier than expected on the most recent challenge to the contraception coverage mandate within the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) (P.L. 111-148). The Supreme Court sent Zubik v. Burwell back to the lower circuit courts to examine the alternatives to the mandate’s accommodation that were included in supplemental briefs by both parties and submitted to the court after oral arguments (see High court’s contraception compromise appears ‘unworkable,’ April 27, 2016) (Zubik v. Burwell, May 16, 2016, per curiam).
Merits. The Justices did not rule on the merits of the case discussed at oral arguments (see High court weighs government’s interest in protecting women’s health against hijacking religious organizations’ insurers, March 24, 2016), instead commenting, “Given the gravity of the dispute and the substantial clarification and refinement in the positions of the parties, the parties on remand should be afforded an opportunity to arrive at an approach going forward that accommodates petitioners’ religious exercise while at the same time ensuring that women covered by petitioners’ health plans ‘receive full and equal health coverage, including contraceptive coverage.”
Stay tuned for more in-depth coverage of the Supreme Court’s decision.
Attorneys: Paul D. Clement (Bancroft PLLC); Noel Francisco (Jones Day); David M. Kaufman (Freeborn & Peters LLP); Donald V. Verrilli, Jr., U.S. Solicitor General, for Sylvia Burwell, Secretary, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
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