WASHINGTON—On the sixth anniversary of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the U.S. Supreme Court turns its attention today to Zubik v. Burwell, a consolidation of seven lawsuits challenging provisions of the law intended to ensure women’s health and well-being. Last month, the National Health Law Program (NHeLP) filed an amicus brief urging the Court to uphold the ACA’s contraceptive coverage requirement in the face of challenges by non-profit employers who seek to deny their employees access to contraception.
“The ACA has been instrumental in increasing access to health care for millions of people by removing cost-barriers,” said Dipti Singh, NHeLP reproductive health attorney. “Access to contraceptive services is critical to the health and well-being of women, and removing the cost-sharing burden of those services furthers the ACA’s goals. We urge the Court to preserve women’s ability to fully benefit from the ACA.”
Under federal rules, the employers before the Court are already allowed to opt-out of offering health insurance plans that cover contraception by notifying the government, insurance company, or third-party administrator that they have a religious objection to contraception. Then, the insurance company, not the employer, will make contraception available to impacted employees and their dependents. The employers, however, argue that even this simple notice requirement–essentially checking a box–imposes a substantial burden on their religious exercise rights in violation of a federal statute known as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).
“Six years into the ACA, remarkable progress has been made to extend the reach of affordable health coverage, but many women still face financial barriers that prevent them from accessing contraception,” said Jane Perkins, NHeLP legal director. “Allowing employers to impose their own religious beliefs on their employees and erect barriers to contraception denies women of critical health benefits and the freedom to make important decisions about their own health.”
“The underlying goal of the ACA is ensuring all individuals and families can access the health care they need–including contraception,” said Elizabeth G. Taylor, NHeLP executive director. “We look to the Court to uphold the ACA’s requirement and protect a women’s right to choose the best contraception method without involvement from her employer.”
NHeLP’s amicus brief in Zubik can be found here. The brief was joined by the American Public Health Association, National Hispanic Medical Association, National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association, National Women’s Health Network, Ipas, Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC, Asian Americans Advancing Justice–Los Angeles, Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum, Black Women’s Health Imperative, and Christie’s Place.