KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Temporary Halt To Obamacare Birth Control Rule From Justice Sotomayor

The Supreme Court justice's ruling affects a number of faith-based groups. She asked for an administration response by tomorrow.

Los Angeles Times: Justice Sotomayor Grants Temporary Obamacare Exemption To Nuns
Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor granted a temporary exemption late Tuesday to a small group of Catholic nuns that shields it from having to comply with a part of President Obama's healthcare law that requires it to provide contraceptive coverage in its insurance plans. She acted on an emergency appeal from lawyers for the group who said the nuns faced "draconian fines" beginning on New Year's Day if they failed to comply with the law widely known as Obamacare (Savage and Reston, 12/31/13).

The Associated Press: Justice Delays Health Law’s Birth Control Mandate
Her decision, which came after federal court filings by Catholic-affiliated groups from around the nation in hopes of delaying the requirements, throws a part of the president's signature law into temporary disarray. At least one federal appeals court agreed with Sotomayor, issuing its own stay against part of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. ... Sotomayor acted on a request from an organization of Catholic nuns in Denver, the Little Sisters of the Poor Home for the Aged (Holland, 1/1).

The New York Times: Health Law Challenge Opens Up New Front
In temporarily blocking enforcement of the part of President Obama’s health care law that requires many employers to provide health insurance coverage for birth control or face penalties, Justice Sonia Sotomayor on Tuesday opened a second front in Supreme Court challenges to the provision. The initial front opened in November, when the justices agreed to hear a pair of cases from for-profit companies challenging that provision. Now Justice Sotomayor has ordered the Obama administration to file a brief by Friday morning responding to a different kind of challenge, this one from groups affiliated with religious organizations (Liptak, 1/1).

Politico: W.H. Stands By Birth-Control Rule
"We defer to the Department of Justice on litigation matters, but remain confident that our final rules strike the balance of providing women with free contraceptive coverage while preventing non-profit religious employers with religious objections to contraceptive coverage from having to contract, arrange, pay, or refer for such coverage,” a White House official said (Allen, 1/2).

The Washington Post: Supreme Court Temporarily Allows Religious Groups Not To Cover Birth Control
The ruling applied not only to the Little Sisters of the Poor, a nonprofit group that provides services to low-income elderly people, but also to more than 200 other faith-based groups that use insurance offered by the Christian Brothers Employee Benefit Trust, which adheres to Catholic principles. Most nonprofit groups that challenged the mandate had received temporary reprieves. The injunction could expire as soon as Friday, which is when Sotomayor has asked for a response from the federal government (Somashekhar, Barnes and Boorstein, 1/1).

Bloomberg: Obama Contraception Rules Halted Catholic Groups’ Suit
The U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, in a 2-1 ruling, yesterday granted a request by the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Washington and the Catholic University of America among other plaintiffs for an order barring the federal government from imposing the contraceptive services requirement on them while they appeal a lower-court ruling they lost (Pettersson, 1/1).

The Baltimore Sun: Little Sisters Hopeful After Supreme Court Stays Obamacare Birth Control Mandate
[T]he Little Sisters of the Poor, an international order with its U.S. headquarters in Catonsville [Md.], say that step alone would amount to participating in a practice that violates Catholic teaching, and they cannot comply "in any way." The Little Sisters, who employ hundreds of workers at 30 homes for the elderly across the United States, would have faced substantial IRS fines beginning Wednesday (Brown, 1/1).

Kaiser Health News on Wednesday tracked additional headlines and coverage of this development (1/1).

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