(Bloomberg) — The U.S. Supreme Court scheduled a new showdown over a mandate connected with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) and religious rights, agreeing to hear contentions that faith-based groups shouldn’t have to facilitate what they consider to be immoral insurance coverage for contraceptives.
The case, which centers on the Obama administration’s push to make birth control a standard part of the major medical insurance benefits package, will determine the extent to which government officials must allow exceptions for people who say their religious principles prevent them from following the law. Critics say the administration hasn’t adequately accommodated religious employers that equate some forms of contraception with murder.
“Many religious ministries are being forced to choose between violating their sincere religious beliefs or violating federal law,” argued an appeal by the Little Sisters of the Poor, an order of Catholic nuns.
The case has the potential to affect thousands of universities, hospitals, religious orders and other nonprofits. Hundreds of those groups have sued over the issue, citing a federal religious-freedom law. It comes to the high court as religious objections to gay marriage engender debates around the country.
The Supreme Court ruled in 2014 that closely held companies can refuse on religious grounds to offer birth-control coverage to their workers. The newest case involves religious nonprofits, rather than for-profit companies, and centers on the adequacy of the Obama administration’s system for letting those groups avoid having to directly provide coverage.
The controversy stems from a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) determination that the basic package of must-cover preventive services created by PPACA should include contraceptive coverage.
The administration gives objecting nonprofits two options: They can shift responsibility onto their insurer by providing it with a “self-certification” form, or they can notify HHS of their objection and provide contact information for their insurer. Either way, the federal government reimburses the insurer for the cost of the coverage.