A recent federal appeals court ruling overturned a 2013 judge ruling and decided against religiously-affiliated employers that are opposed to offering contraceptive care coverage to their employees through third-party or non-profit groups.
US employers are required to provide coverage, under Obamacare, for all FDA approved contraceptive methods, including oral contraceptives and sterilization procedures. Additionally, patient education and family planning counselling must also be covered. However, New-York Catholic-affiliated employers are opposed to this requirement and wish to deny contraceptive care coverage to employees. The federal appeals court overturned a Brooklyn judge’s ruling and found an accommodation for third-party affiliates of the Catholic Church.
Catholic-affiliated employers insist that they do not wish to facilitate their employees’ access to medical services and practices they consider objectionable. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals, however, claims that allowing religious-affiliated entities to transfer the burden of contraceptive coverage on third parties cannot erode their religious rights.
“[It] relieves, rather than imposes, a substantial burden on plaintiffs’ religious exercise,” the ruling read.
As such, the mandate of offering contraceptive coverage to employers has an exemption in the case of employees of Catholic-Church-affiliated companies.
This particular accommodation allows these employers to refuse to pay the aforementioned coverage. Employees of such entities still have the option to access those services from the company’s insurance provider if they do not agree with the religious beliefs and limitations of their employer.
The ruling by Judge Rosemary Pooler explained that the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals had received multiple similar cases. In the end, religious entities are only mandated to identify themselves in such situations as objectors. This requires an opt-out form. With the help of this paperwork, Judge Pooler explains, an employer transfers its coverage burden on the company’s insurer.
If identifying as religious objectors, such religiously-affiliated organizations cannot be held responsible for contraceptive coverage. Additionally, they cannot be punished if refusing to do so.
The appeals court ruling notes that this recent accommodation relieves such employers from having to provide contraceptive coverage by enlisting third parties to offer the necessary service.
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