Hot Topics in Health Care: The Nun, The President and New York’s Own Supreme Court Justice: 2014’s First Affordable Care Act Showdown

Happy and healthy New Year to all the readers of this column. 2013 proved to be a very exciting year in health care and there is no reason to believe that 2014 is not going to be the same. We certainly start off to a great start. There is a pivotal three way battle between religion, politics and the Supreme Court, a mixture that will sure prove volatile.

So last year we had a little known law, called the Affordable Care Act that for the most part went into effect in a big way. You may have heard of it. A small part of that bill was a contraception mandate that requires health plans to provide birth control to women at no cost, considered a preventative health service.

As expected religious and non –religious employers (including a chain of craft stores named Hobby Lobby) were up in arms because they objected, on religious freedom grounds, to have the employer sponsored health plans offer contraception services. The President offered an opt-out form to avoid offering the coverage. If you do not offer the services and do not opt out, the organization faces penalties. However, the Little Sisters of the Poor, a Colorado based group of Catholic Nuns, took offense with the filling out of the form, claiming that it still promotes contraceptive services.

Now, this is where it gets interesting. At the final hour, on December 31st, hours before the contraception mandate came into effect; Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor grants the Nuns a temporary injunction, preventing the federal government from enforcing the penalties while the case is winding its way to the Supreme Court. The Department of Justice steps in claiming that the Little Sisters do not have a case, because they can opt out of the mandate. The President appears baffled at the Justice’s granting of the injunction.

This is certainly not the first case to challenge the contraception mandate, as there are at least five other organizations that have been successful in obtaining a temporary injunction, precluding them from penalties for not complying with the Affordable Care Act. The Supreme Court will ultimately decide at some point this year. Stay Tuned!!!


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  • Michael LaMagna, LNHA, MPA, JD concentrates in the areas of Medicaid and Advanced Asset Protection Planning, Elder Law, Trusts and Estates, Probate and Probate Litigation, Guardianships, Health Care Regulatory Matters, Nursing Home Placement, Long Term Care Insurance, Medicare Appeals, Social Security/SSI Litigation and Special Needs Law. If you have a question for Mr. LaMagna, please call him at (914) 437-5955.