By Hadley Heath
Sisters Loraine Marie Maguire and Constance Veit, members of the order "Little Sisters of the Poor" will attend President Obama's final State of the Union address, even as their order fights with the Obama Administration in court. The Sisters will be guests of House Speaker Paul Ryan.
Most recently the Little Sisters, along with other petitioners suing over the so-called "birth control mandate," filed a brief with the Supreme Court, who will hear their case this year. Their case centers on an accommodation that the Administration offered to some religious groups on the mandate. Churches and houses of worship can be exempted entirely, but other religious non-profits, like the Little Sisters (a group of nuns who care for elderly and dying patients) can only be "accommodated." The Sisters and other petitioners explain that the government should not be in the business of deciding which religious groups are "religious enough" for the exemption, and that the accommodation still forces them to violate their deeply-held religious groups, as they are party to the process by which their employees could access contraceptives that they find morally objectionnable.
The Independent Women's Forum, the organization behind HealthCareLawsuits.org, has filed an amicus brief, siding with petitioners.
By Hadley Heath
Today 46 Members of Congress, led by Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ), filed an Amicus Curiae brief in support of the plaintiffs in Sissel v. HHS. This case challenges the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, alleging that because the bill originated in the Senate and raises revenues, it violates the Origination Clause. Here is a link to their brief.
Here's what the Congressmen had to say about their action, from their press release about the Amicus brief:
The brief traces the historical foundation of the Origination Clause, demonstrating that the chamber closest to the people and elected every two years has the sole power to originate revenue raising bills. The Origination Clause, found in Article 1, Section 7 of the U.S. Constitution, requires that “All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with Amendments as on other Bills." Obamacare, which was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court on the grounds that it was a tax (aka a "Bill for raising Revenue") instead originated in the Senate.
Pacific Legal Foundation is handling the litigation of this case. You can read more about their efforts here.
By Hadley Heath
The Supreme Court just announced that it will hear a new challenge to ObamaCare's mandate that all employers provide first-dollar coverage for all FDA-approved contraceptives. This case is a lot like the one brought last summer by Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., but this time, the challengers are non-profit groups including hospitals, universities, and charities. Because of their religious affiliations and convictions, these groups do not want to be a part of providing contraceptives that they find morally objectionable.
One of these groups is Little Sisters of the Poor, a group of Catholic nuns who care for the sick and elderly poor. These sisters have taken vows of chastity, meaning not only do they oppose birth control, but they have no need of it. IWF is proud to be supportive of their case through the amicus brief that we filed this summer. Here's an excerpt from our brief:
As with the Hobby Lobby case, this case is about more than contraception. It is about the principles of liberty that animate our Constitution. It is about empowering women to choose the healthcare and salary options that best fit their needs. And it is about empowering charitable employers, many lead by women, to follow their deeply held religious convictions—regardless of the form of their charitable entity. Women do not check their religious liberty rights at the office door.
The Obama Administration has made a blanket exception to this mandate for churches, but for other religious non-profits, they offered a so-called accommodation: Instead of directly providing insurance coverage for the drugs and devices in question, the non-profit employers must sign paperwork instructing a third party to provide the coverage to their employees.
This is troubling not just because it burdens the religious freedom of non-profit employers, but because it puts the federal government in a place it doesn't belong, deciding who is sufficiently "religious enough" to get an exemption. We might all think that surely nuns are religious enough, but it's government making this distinction in the first place that is troubling.
It's good news that the Court has decided to take up this case. If the Court applies the same logic as in Hobby Lobby v. Burwell, they will see that the non-profit employers are facing a substantial burden to their religious freedom, even under the "accommodation," and that there is a better way for the government to attempt to provide broad access to contraceptives.
It is suprising that the Obama Administration has not yet realized this: They lost in Hobby Lobby, and these other cases have been working their way through district and appellate courts for years now. Did they not see this coming? Now they will have to deal with the optics of facing nuns, hospitals, universities, and other religious charities in Court. These charities do so much good in society; they simply want no part in ObamaCare's contraception mandate. But the Obama Administration would prefer to shut them down, through backbreaking fines for noncompliance, than allow them to continue providing education and healthcare services to those most in need. Mind-blowing.
By Hadley Heath
In a unique challenge to the Affordable Care Act, plaintiff Matt Sissel has alleged that the individual mandate is unconstitutional and furthermore that the entire law is unconstitutional because it originated in the Senate, not the U.S. House, where revenue-raising bills must originate. We've covered this Origination Clause challenge since its inception.
Today the nonprofit handling litigation for Sissel, the Pacific Legal Foundation, has filed a petition for certiorari with the Supreme Court. The case started in federal district court and was last heard in the D.C. Court of Appeals, where a panel of three judges ruled against the plaintiff. Now he is appealing to the only court left who can hear his case.
Here is what the Pacific Legal Foundation said about today's landmark filing:
Pacific Legal Foundation and Matt Sissel are asking the Supreme Court to accept our challenge to Obamacare, in order to uphold and enforce the Constitution’s safeguards against arbitrary taxation, and to liberate Americans from a harmful law that was imposed in defiance of those procedures and protections.
You can read more about this case here.
Today's filing is already getting some attention in the news media. At HealthCareLawsuits.org, we will keep you posted on this case and any others challenging ObamaCare.
By Hadley Heath
Yet another effort from the Administration to squash the House-led lawsuit against ObamaCare's "cost-sharing" provision has failed. District court judge Rosemary Collyer ruled last month to deny the Administration's motion to dismiss the case. The Administration sought an immediate appeal of this decision, but the court denied this request and instead set a briefing schedule for the case to continue. Oral arguments have been set for January 18, 2016.
"Suffice it to say, the Court is not convinced it erred," Collyer wrote. "Defendants will have a chance to make their argument to the Court of Appeals; the only question is whether they may do so now."
At issue in the case is the so-called "cost sharing" provisions that require insurance companies offering health plans through the law to reduce the out-of-pocket costs for policy holders who qualify. The government offsets the added costs to insurance companies by reimbursing them, but the lawmakers say that Congress did not properly approve the money for those reimbursements.
"I'm pleased with today's ruling," Boehner said in a statement. "The court has previously ruled that the House does, in fact, have standing to challenge one of the president's unilateral actions with regard to Obamacare... It's another important step toward holding the president accountable for his unconstitutional actions."
Stay tuned to Health Care Lawsuits for more updates about this case as oral argument approaches in January.