Health reform implementation

Notre Dame re-files ObamaCare lawsuit


The University of Notre Dame on Tuesday refiled a lawsuit contesting the controversial birth control mandate under ObamaCare.

The school said it believes the requirement that it provide its employees birth control as part of their insurance coverage impinges on its religious beliefs and that efforts by the Obama administration to find a solution would not resolve the issue.

{mosads}Going along with the administration’s plan “would require us to forfeit our rights, to facilitate and become entangled in a program inconsistent with Catholic teaching, and to create the impression that the University cooperates with and condones activities incompatible with its mission,” Notre Dame’s president, the Rev. John Jenkins, said in a statement.

Notre Dame first filed a lawsuit against the mandate in May 2012, but it was rejected by a judge as premature because the mandate had not yet taken effect. The administration also entered talks with the school to try to find an accommodation, which Jenkins indicated in his statement had failed.

“Our abiding concern in both the original filing … and this re-filing has been Notre Dame’s freedom — and indeed the freedom of many religious organizations in this country — to live out a religious mission,” he said. “We have sought neither to prevent women from having access to services, nor to prevent the government from providing them.”

Notre Dame’s lawsuit is just the latest test for the contraception mandate.

The Supreme Court last week agreed to hear a challenge to the mandate brought by private companies that say the federal government can’t order businesses to pay for contraception coverage that goes against the owners’ religious beliefs.

The administration has sought to find ways to allow religious institutions to avoid the mandate.

In June, the Health and Human Services Department announced it would simplify the process by which the employees of religiously affiliated institutions would be able to opt out of contraceptive coverage. 

Under the final rules, self-insured religious groups would notify their plan administrators about their objection to covering birth control, and the administrator would notify policyholders about their separate eligibility for birth control services.

Jenkins said Notre Dame appreciated its talks with the administration but that they were not enough to resolve their concerns.

“We believe the participants undertook these discussions in good faith, and we are grateful to the administration for the time it gave to this matter and for the efforts to accommodate our concerns,” Jenkins continued.

The mandate requires most employers to cover a range of birth control methods in their insurance plans without cost sharing. The mandate was created to ensure that most working women have access to free birth control in their healthcare plans.

Churches and houses of worship are exempt from the requirement, and employees of religiously affiliated institutions, such as Catholic schools, will receive birth control coverage directly from their insurers.

But the question is more complicated for religious institutions like Notre Dame that self-insure and pay all employee health claims. 

— Updated at 8 p.m. 

Tags Barack Obama Notre Dame Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act
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