A federal appeals court has issued a second ruling staying the health care reform law's requirement that health insurance plans cover contraception and related services.
The contraception mandate has been a particularly controversial part of President Barack Obama's Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. On Friday, the Obama administration proposed a new compromise in an effort to address the concerns of religious nonprofit organizations to the law, which requires employers to provide health insurance that includes artificial contraception, including sterilization, as a free preventive service.
The compromise is a work-around for religious nonprofits and would provide their employees with contraceptive services outside of the employers' health insurance plan.
Early reports on the compromise plan did not appear to affect the rules for employers who are not part of religious organizations but object to providing contraception on the basis of personal religious beliefs of company owners. Recent U.S. Court of Appeals cases have involved several such companies.
In the latest ruling, on Jan. 30, a split U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit panel in Grote v. Sebelius granted the plaintiffs' injunction motion while their appeal is pending. The injunction bars U.S. government agencies from enforcing the law's contraception mandate against the Grote family and its company, Grote Industries. The Grote family is Catholic and claims those regulations violate its religious freedoms.
Judges Joel Flaum and Diane Sykes joined the order. Judge Ilana Diamond Rovner filed a dissent.
On Dec. 28, 2012, the same panel issued a similar order with the same split in Korte v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. That ruling barred the government from enforcing the disputed mandate against the Korte family and its construction company, Korte & Luitjohan Contractors Inc.
In addition, in a one-sentence split order on Nov. 28, 2012, the Eighth Circuit granted a similar preliminary injunction motion in O'Brien v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The cases are among several challenges to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act at the district and appellate courts.
The contraception mandate applies during the first health plan year after Aug. 1, 2012.