Policy: Health Care

Judge orders Obama administration not to enforce HHS mandate

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Beltway Confidential,Health,Joel Gehrke,Barack Obama,Health and Human Services,Health Care,Analysis,Kathleen Sebelius

Following a federal circuit court’s ruling that the contraception mandate is likely unconstitutional, a federal judge ordered President Obama’s administration not to attempt to force a company challenging the mandate to comply with the rule.

The government is “temporarily ENJOINED and RESTRAINED from any effort to apply or enforce, as to [Hobby Lobby], the substantive requirements imposed in 42 U.S.C. § 300gg-13(a)(4) and at issue in this case, or the penalties related thereto, pending a hearing on plaintiffs’ motion for preliminary injunction,” U.S. District Judge Joe Heaton ordered today. He based that ruling on the 10th Circuit Court’s conclusion that Hobby Lobby has “established a likely violation of [the Religious Freedom Restoration Act].”

“Hobby Lobby and the Green family faced the terrible choice of violating their faith or paying massive fines starting this Monday morning,” said Kyle Duncan, General Counsel with the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, who represents Hobby Lobby. “We are delighted that both the 10th Circuit and the district court have spared them from this unjust burden on their religious freedom.”

The ruling applies only to Hobby Lobby, but could set a precedent for any other companies in the 10th Circuit’s jurisdiction (“Oklahoma, Kansas, New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, and Utah, plus those portions of the Yellowstone National Park extending into Montana and Idaho,” per the court’s website).

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius finalized the HHS mandate regulation today, with an “accommodation” for non-profit religious institutions, but the exemptions did not extend to for-profit companies such as the ones that “have established a likelihood of success that their rights under this statute are substantially burdened by the contraceptive-coverage requirement, and have established an irreparable harm,” in the words of the 10th Circuit judges.

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