Trump gives relief to religious Obamacare objectors

Deseret News

Hannah C. Smith

Last Friday, the Trump administration revised rules implementing the Affordable Care Act in a way that expands protections for religious and moral objectors to the contraception mandate — achieving the common-sense balance that religious organizations have sought for the past six years. These revisions allow religious nonprofits — like the Little Sisters of the Poor — to avoid millions of dollars in fines because their employee health insurance plans exclude coverage for contraception, a practice contrary to Catholic doctrine on respecting human life.

Judging by some media hyperbole, however, you would think that the federal government had just abolished the ACA’s birth control mandate altogether. Headlines that claim the federal government’s move “reverses” or “scraps” or “ends” the mandate are all wrong.. . .The vast majority of women in America will continue to receive free birth control, and religious objectors will not be forced into providing services that violate their conscience. . . [Full text]

 

Donald Trump’s new guidelines for protecting religious faith restore justice

Washington Times

Editorial

Not so long ago, President Trump’s new guidelines for the Department of Health and Human Services for protecting freedom of religious faith would have been superfluous and unnecessary. A casual observer might have read them in puzzlement, as if the government had reaffirmed its opposition to robbery or murder.

But all that was before the Obama administration sought to bring those of religious faith to heel, ordering employers to pay for contraception devices and abortion-inducing drugs, even if it violated the conscience of employers. Under pressure, the Obama administration grudgingly exempted churches from its mandate, but employers affiliated with religious groups still were required to pay through third-party administrators.

The new guidelines, drawn up by the U.S. Justice Department, change that. The order does not prohibit employers paying such benefits, and many employers will continue to do so. Nor will anyone be deprived by the government of their condoms, diaphragms and other birth-control devices. But “going forward,” as the cliche goes, an employer will not be required by the U.S. Government to violate his conscience for the convenience of those hostile to religious faith. . .[Full text]

Christian Medical Association and Freedom2Care Applaud Administration’s Actions to Protect Conscience in Healthcare

News Release

Christian Medical Association

WASHINGTON, Oct. 6, 2017 — Today the nation’s largest association of Christian health professionals, the 18,000-member Christian Medical Association (CMA, Christian Medical Association www.cmda.org) applauded the administration’s actions to restore conscience freedoms in healthcare. The administration took action concerning the Obamacare contraceptives mandate, insurance premiums used to pay for abortions, and regarding government respect for religious freedom.

“We are thankful to see these vital conscience freedoms restored in healthcare,” noted CMA Senior Vice President Gene Rudd, MD, and Ob-Gyn physician. “For millennia, medical ethics have provided for conscientious opposition to abortion by physicians who took up the practice of medicine as a healing art never to be used for the destruction of human life. And until recently, our government reinforced those ethical principles with conscience protections. We are heartened to see our government heading back in the direction of these vital freedoms that protect patients, medicine and freedom in our country.”

Jonathan Imbody, director of Freedom2Care (www.Freedom2Care.org), which is affiliated with CMA said, “As Americans who have inherited a nation founded upon freedom of faith, conscience and speech, we can agree that the government must never force individuals to violate their deepest held beliefs on vital and extremely controversial issues such as abortion. When our leaders forget these principles, and take to forcing nuns to participate in matters they consider wholly immoral, the American people realize that our fundamental freedoms are in jeopardy. If the government can take away the rights of one group, then no one is safe from government coercion.

“These actions today by the administration are an important step back in the direction of freedom and respect for one another, and we look forward to more actions in the future, including restoration of the conscience rule for health professionals that President Obama gutted.”

Contact: Margie Shealy, Christian Medical Association, 423-341-4254

Trump Administration Rolls Back ACA Contraceptive Coverage Rule

Several organizations plan to sue over the change

Medpage Today

Joyce Frieden

WASHINGTON — Medical groups expressed disappointment in rules issued Friday by the Trump administration that rollback contraceptive coverage requirements put in place by the Obama administration.

The new rules were issued as “interim final” regulations, meaning that they will be implemented immediately. The rules allow employers to refuse to cover contraceptives for any moral or religious reason. It also no longer requires employers to allow their insurers or third-party administrators to provide separate coverage, instead calling that arrangement an “optional” accommodation.

Under the Affordable Care Act, employers were required to cover all forms of contraception with no co-pay. Certain religiously affiliated employers, such as churches or religious affiliated hospitals or universities, were exempted from this rule; however, once they signed paperwork stating that they did not want to provide coverage, the employer’s insurer or third-party administrator then had to provide that same coverage, with no co-pay, to employees who needed it. . .[Full text]

 

Washington State mother sues employer for denying insurance coverage to transgender son

Lawsuit claims Catholic health care organization is breaking law by denying coverage for all transgender services

Metro Weekly

John Riley

The ACLU of Washington has filed a civil rights lawsuit against a Catholic health care organization for refusing to cover the medically necessary surgery required by a transgender son of one of their employees.

The ACLU is suing on behalf of Cheryl Enstad, a medical social worker at PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center in Bellingham, Wash. Enstad decided to file a lawsuit after PeaceHealth refused to cover the medical expenses of her transgender son, Pax, even though the treatments that were denied were recommended to treat his gender dysphoria.

Because PeaceHealth is a Catholic health care organization, it tries to abide by the teachings of the Catholic Church when it comes to issues surrounding sexual orientation or gender identity. It used that as justification for refusing to provide coverage for a recommended chest reconstruction surgery and other treatments for gender dysphoria under its medical benefits plan. . . [Full text]

 

Trump Administration Issues Rules Protecting the Conscience Rights of All Americans

News Release

For immediate release

United States Department of Health and Human Services

The Departments of Health and Human Services, Treasury, and Labor are announcing two companion interim final rules that provide conscience protections to Americans who have a religious or moral objection to paying for health insurance that covers contraceptive/abortifacient services. Obamacare-compliant health insurance plans are required to cover “preventive services,” a term defined through regulation. Under the existing regulatory requirements created by the previous administration, employers, unless they qualify for an exemption, must offer health insurance that covers all FDA-approved contraception, which includes medications and devices that may act as abortifacients as well sterilization procedures.

Under the first of two companion rules released today, entities that have sincerely held religious beliefs against providing such services would no longer be required to do so. The second rule applies the same protections to organizations and small businesses that have objections on the basis of moral conviction which is not based in any particular religious belief.

In May, President Trump issued an “Executive Order Promoting Free Speech and Religious Liberty” in which the President directed the Secretaries of Health and Human Services, Labor and the Treasury to consider amending existing regulations relative to Obamacare’s preventive-care mandate in order to address conscience-based objections.

Key Facts about today’s interim final rules:

  • The regulations exempt entities only from providing an otherwise mandated item to which they object on the basis of their religious beliefs or moral conviction.
  • The regulation leaves in place preventive services coverage guidelines where no religious or moral objection exists – meaning that out of millions of employers in the U.S., these exemptions may impact only about 200 entities, the number that that filed lawsuits based on religious or moral objections.
    • These rules will not affect over 99.9% of the 165 million women in the United States.
  • Current law itself already exempts over 25 million people from the preventive-care mandate because they are insured through an entity that has a health insurance plan that existed prior to the Obamacare statute.
  • The regulations leave in place government programs that provide free or subsidized contraceptive coverage to low income women, such as through community health centers.
  • These regulations do not ban any drugs or devices.
  • The mandate as defined by the previous administration suffered defeats in court after court, including the Supreme Court, which ruled that the government cannot punish business owners for their faith.

The IFR can be found here:

https://www.federalregister.gov/d/2017-21852

https://www.federalregister.gov/d/2017-21851

To find a fact sheet on the IFRs, visit:  Religious and Moral Exemptions and Accommodations for Coverage of Certain Preventive Services Under the Affordable Care Act

Contact: HHS Press Office
202-690-6343
media@hhs.gov

 

Symposium: Conscience, conditions, and access to civil society

SCOTUSblog

Richard Garnett*

It is striking how easy it has become for a person to stumble into the status of a symbol – or, these days, a viral meme. Jack Phillips is, or was until fairly recently, a skilled cake artist with a small business, Masterpiece Cakeshop, in suburban Denver. Today, he is a litigant in the Supreme Court of the United States and regarded by many as embodying the tension – increasingly, the conflict – between religious conscience and equality. . . Can he be required, though – should he be required, is it necessary for him to be required – to say something he thinks is not true, to disavow what he believes or to act expressively in violation of his conscience? . . . [Full text]

In US Supreme Court Brief, Christian Doctors Cite Conscience Conflicts Similar to Creative Artists

News Release

Christian Medical Association

WASHINGTON, Sept. 11, 2017 – The nation’s largest faith-based professional association of health professionals, the Christian Medical Association (CMA, www.cmda.org), contends in a legal brief filed with the Supreme Court that its members’ conscience battles parallel those of creative artists sued for declining to participate in proceedings inconsistent with their conscience and convictions.

CMA has filed a brief with the Court in the case (Masterpiece Bakeshops v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission) of Jack Phillips, a cake artist sued for declining to participate in a same-sex wedding, an event that contradicts his moral persuasions. CMA contends in its brief that health professionals face similar challenges to their First Amendment freedoms in situations involving abortion and other matters involving ethical choices and professional medical judgment.

The brief contends, “To force Mr. Phillips to make this cake would threaten a core liberty that is of the greatest possible importance to medical professionals – protection against compelled speech contrary to conscience, including purely symbolic expression. [T]he implications for the rights of medical professionals in the practice of their professions are clear, and disturbing.”

CMA CEO Dr. David Stevens commented, “This case reminds us that a threat to the First Amendment freedoms of one group is a threat to the First Amendment freedoms of everyone. Regardless of where one stands on controversial issues, as Americans we can all agree that the government cannot be allowed to compel any one of us to express ourselves in a way that violates our deepest held beliefs.

“Preserving freedom of medical judgment for doctors is an essential protection for patients. Imagine if the government were to dictate every medical decision and decide every medical prescription and procedure apart from the medical judgment of the doctors who know and care for their patients best.”

Contact:

Margie Shealy, Christian Medical Association, 423-341-4254

U.S. bishops, other Catholic groups back conscience protection bill

Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) — The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and 32 other organizations have signed a joint letter of support for the Conscience Protection Act of 2017.

The bill, which has House and Senate versions, is intended to close loopholes that ignore the conscience rights of medical professionals on abortion, according to the signed letter.

“Even many ‘pro-choice’ Americans realize that the logic of their (opponents’) position requires them to respect a choice not to be involved in abortion,” said the letter, dated Sept. 6 and addressed to senators. . . [Full text]

There’s an unseen benefit to California’s physician-assisted death law

LA Times

Soumya Karlamangla

Some doctors in California felt uncomfortable last year when a new law began allowing terminally ill patients to request lethal medicines, saying their careers had been dedicated to saving lives, not ending them.

Many healthcare systems designed protocols for screening people who say they’re interested in physician-assisted death, including some that were meant to dissuade patients from taking up the option.

But physicians across the state say the conversations that health workers are having with patients are leading to patients’ fears and needs around dying being addressed better than ever before. They say the law has improved medical care for sick patients, even those who don’t take advantage of it.

“One doctor said we should be able to order the End of Life Option Act without the drugs,” said Dr. Neil Wenger, director of the UCLA Health Ethics Center. “It really has created a new standard for how we ought to be helping people at the end of life.” . . . [Full text]