The HHS mandate went into effect for religious-affiliated institutions on New Years Day.
In a letter to the president, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz pointed to the variety of changes that have been made to the Affordable Care Act in the past three years, saying that exempting religious from the HHS mandate should be added to that list.
The “Administration recently relaxed the rules governing individual health plans under the Affordable Care Act,” Kurtz pointed out, “the latest in a series of actions to advance the ACA’s goal of maximizing health coverage, while minimizing hardships to Americans as the Act is implemented.”
“One category of Americans, however, has been left out in the cold,” wrote Kurtz. “Those who…cannot in good conscience comply with the HHS regulation requiring coverage of sterilization and contraceptives. This mandate includes drugs and devices that can interfere with the survival of a human being in the earliest stage of development, burdening religious convictions on abortion as well as contraception.”
In a pointed critique, Kurtz notes that “the Administration’s flexibility in implementing the ACA has not yet reached those who want only to exercise what has rightly been called our ‘First Freedom’ under the Constitution.”
In the letter Kurtz also writes there is a contradiction between the ACA’s stated goal of coming closer to universal coverage and the $100 daily fine per employee for not covering abortion-inducing pills and contraception.
Until such a time as the Supreme Court has the opportunity to decide on the constitutionality of the HHS mandate, wrote Kurtz to the president, “I urge you to consider offering temporary relief from this mandate, as you have for so many other individuals and groups facing other requirements under the ACA.”
The mandate has faced dozens of challenges since it was first promulgated in 2012. In 52 cases so far, courts have granted injunctions blocking the mandate, whereas injunctions have been denied in only seven cases.
The USCCB oversees the American Catholic Church, whose non-profit assistance to millions of Americans grants it enormous influence in political discussions. Approximately one-sixth of the nation’s hospital beds are affiliated with the Church,