Controversial contraceptive mandate blocked for now

Another year, another healthcare reform delay: Only hours before the Affordable Care Act's contraceptive mandate took effect on New Year's Day, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor halted its implementation for some religious groups, The Washington Post reported.

Sotomayor issued a temporary injunction against enforcement of the contraception mandate for the Little Sisters of the Poor Home for the Aged, a Denver nonprofit, Sotomayor wrote in the New Year's Eve order.

In addition to the organization of Catholic nuns from Colorado, more than 200 faith-based groups insured by the Christian Brothers Employee Benefit Trust also won a temporary reprieve, the Post noted.

While the order for now allows Little Sisters of the Poor to not cover birth control in their employee health plans, Sotomayor's injunction could expire by Friday, Jan. 3, the Post noted.

In the order, Sotomayor also asked for a response from the federal government by 10:00 a.m. tomorrow.

On Wednesday, the Obama administration defended the contraceptive mandate and maintained it provides free contraceptive coverage while still acknowledging nonprofit religious employers with religious objections to contraceptive coverage, according to Politico.

Under the government's final rule regarding contraception coverage, religious-affiliated companies don't have to directly pay for contraception coverage, but their workers can still receive that coverage through a separate health plan provided by the insurance company at no cost.

The high court already agreed to hear two challenges to the regulations, one brought by the Oklahoma-based craft store chain Hobby Lobby and another by Conestoga Wood Specialties Corporation, a Pennsylvania cabinet maker. Objections have prompted about 40 lawsuits nationwide, FierceHealthPayer previously reported.  

For more:
- read the order (.pdf)
- here's the Post article
- read the Politico article