News Law and Policy

Nonprofit College Once Again Challenges Contraception Benefit

Jessica Mason Pieklo

Now that the administration has finalized the rules related to contraception coverage, nonprofit religiously-affiliated entities are restarting their legal challenges.

The battle over the birth control benefit in the Affordable Care Act most recently has focused on for-profit businesses’ attempts to evade coverage. But challenges by nonprofits have returned as a Christian college in Colorado became the country’s first nonprofit plaintiff to refile suit challenging the mandate after its previous legal challenge was dismissed.

Colorado Christian University (CCU) sued to challenge the mandate once before, but that lawsuit did not progress because final regulations on the birth control policy had not been issued, which meant the school’s legal challenge was not “ripe” or ready for review. On Wednesday, the school filed another lawsuit alleging once again that the requirement violates its freedom of religion. This second lawsuit was expected once regulators released the final rule in June that provides a workaround for self-insured religious groups like CCU that object to covering a range of birth control methods, including emergency contraception, on their employee health plans.

Under the Obama administration’s religious accommodation rule, self-insured religious groups will notify the administrator of their health-care plan about their objection to covering certain types of birth control. The administrator will then notify policyholders separately about their eligibility for contraception under the Obamacare rules. For those employees who want to take advantage of their eligibility but work for an employer who refuses to cover contraception, they can then obtain birth control directly from their insurance company. The federal government will provide a rebate to those insurance companies who provide contraception, assuring those religiously affiliated businesses that have objected to contraception coverage bear no cost or expense associated with the mandate. 

Despite the accommodation, religious groups are still not satisfied and argue the rule continues to violate their religious beliefs by asking them to “designate” third-party administrators to facilitate birth control methods with which they disagree.

According to CCU and others challenging the birth control benefit, the only way the Obama administration can sufficiently respect religious beliefs is to drop the contraception coverage mandate altogether.

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The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado.

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