The fight over key previsions in the Affordable Care Act (also called “Obamacare”) has spilled over into 2014. But one of the key players in the fight isn’t a large corporation or a conservative power broker. Instead, it’s the Catholic organization called the Little Sisters of the Poor, a group that cares for the elderly poor.
Recently, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor surprised many observers by blocking implementation of the “birth control mandate” hours before it was set to take effect. According to Obamacare rules, most health insurance plans must provide FDA-approved contraceptives, something that runs counter to the Catholic beliefs of the Little Sisters of the Poor. Before the injunction, the Little Sisters would have faced a fine of up to $4.5 million per year—and may again if the injunction is lifted.
The Obama administration counters that the Little Sisters of the Poor have a way around the rule:
“In an opposing brief to the Supreme Court, the Justice Department claims the Little Sisters are, in effect, exempt from the contraception mandate. The DOJ says the non-profit has the right to hire a third party to administer coverage and that by signing a simple two-page waiver, the Little Sisters can forego the mandate.”
According to the lawyers for the Little Sisters of the Poor, however, this does not line up with previous filings by the DOJ:
“They cite other court papers in which the government has said it is considering other options to enforce the contraception mandate against churches and religious organizations.”
The Supreme Court is also expected to take up a similar case brought by Hobby Lobby, Inc., in March 2014.