The Affordable Care Act requires that employer-sponsored group medical insurance plans provide contraceptive coverage without cost sharing. Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued final rules carving out an exemption from the contraceptive mandate for employers that claim religious or moral objections to providing employees with contraceptive care. Two federal district courts enjoined the rules, and last month the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed one of those injunctions, concluding that the rules are not likely to survive legal challenge.
In State of Calif. v. Little Sisters of the Poor, the Ninth Circuit noted that provision of contraceptive care is a core purpose of the ACA. Congress did not grant DHHS the authority to make exceptions from this requirement. In addition, the court found that providing contraception through an employer health plan as a matter of law did not create a substantial burden on religious exercise.
Unless the plaintiffs unexpectedly win at trial, or the U.S. Supreme Court reverses the Ninth Circuit, this decision may signal the end to attempts by some employers to avoid the contraception mandate.