Pension & Benefits News Supreme Court will hear ACA contraceptive coverage case
Monday, January 27, 2020

Supreme Court will hear ACA contraceptive coverage case

By Pension and Benefits Editorial Staff

The U.S. Supreme Court has granted certiorari in Little Sisters of the Poor v. Pennsylvania and Trump v. Pennsylvania, consolidating the cases and allotting a total of one hour for oral argument on the Affordable Care Act’s contraception coverage exemption rules.

Third Circuit ruling. In July 2019, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Pennsylvania and New Jersey are likely to succeed in proving that the agencies did not follow the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) and that the regulations are not authorized under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) or required by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). The court also concluded that the states will suffer a concrete and imminent financial injury from the increased use of state-funded services were the regulations to go into effect, and that an injunction would redress that injury. Therefore, it affirmed the district court’s order preliminarily enjoining the rules’ enforcement nationwide.

Parties seek review. In October 2019, the Little Sisters of the Poor Saints Peter and Paul Home (Little Sisters), a nonprofit corporation operated by an order of Catholic nuns who care for the sick and elderly poor, filed a writ of certiorari asking the Supreme Court to review the Third Circuit’s decision.

The questions presented in the Little Sisters’ petition are:

  1. whether a litigant who is directly protected by an administrative rule and has been allowed to intervene to defend it lacks standing to appeal a decision invalidating the rule if the litigant is also protected by an injunction from a different court; and
  2. whether the federal government lawfully exempted religious objectors from the regulatory requirement to provide health plans that include contraceptive coverage.

The Trump Administration also had asked the Supreme Court to review the decision, arguing the agencies had statutory authority to expand the exemptions and the final rules do not violate the APA.

The Administration’s questions presented are:

  1. whether the Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor and the Treasury had statutory authority under the ACA and RFRA to expand the conscience exemption to the contraceptive-coverage mandate;
  2. whether the agencies’ decision to forgo notice and opportunity for public comment before issuing the interim final rules rendered the final rules – which were issued after notice and comment – invalid under the Administrative Procedure Act; and
  3. whether the Third Circuit erred in affirming a nationwide preliminary injunction barring implementation of the final rules.

SOURCE: Little Sisters of the Poor v. Pennsylvania and Trump v. Pennsylvania, (Case Nos. 19-431 and 19-454), cert. granted, January 17, 2020.

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