Beyond the fundamental fact that it leaves the Affordable Care Act intact, the Supreme Court’s 6-3 ruling June 25 upholding government subsidies to individuals who buy health insurance in the exchanges operated by the federal government in 36 states has no bearing on the federal mandate requiring coverage for contraception — including abortifacient drugs — under religious employers’ employee health plans.
Lawsuits directed against the mandate by dozens of church-related institutions and groups, with Catholic ones prominent among them, are working their way through the courts. The issue could come before the Supreme Court as soon as its 2015-2016 term, which begins in October.
Prior to enactment of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, the American bishops repeatedly endorsed the principle of universal health care coverage embodied in the ACA, while at the same time opposing any opening to abortion. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has fought the contraceptive mandate from the time it was first announced.
By contrast, the Catholic Health Association, which represents many church-related health care institutions, has supported the Affordable Care Act before and since its enactment and has raised no objections to the contraceptive mandate. President Barack Obama recently spoke to the CHA’s convention and thanked it warmly for that support.
Russell Shaw is an OSV contributing editor.