Supreme Court eyes health insurance cases

Those who have watched the evolution of the Affordable Care Act know that the Supreme Court can play a pivotal role in shaping health policy.

And the Court's newest term--which begins today--is no exception, with several politically charged cases up for consideration, some of which have implications for the health insurance industry.

Here are two such issues that the Supreme Court is likely to consider this term:

Religious groups and the ACA's contraceptive mandate

In the summer of 2014, the Supreme Court ruled that Hobby Lobby and other companies that object to contraception methods on religious grounds don't have to include birth control in their health plans. But that ruling didn't end the fight over the ACA's controversial contraceptive coverage mandate.

Suits from nonprofit religiously affiliated institutions and groups have been winding their way through lower courts in recent months, with plaintiffs including the Catholic Health Care System and the Little Sisters of the Poor arguing that the current rules that require them to petition the government to opt out of the contraceptive coverage mandate violate their religious liberties. 

Thus far, it is unclear which, if any, of the cases the justices will agree to hear. Yet a recent appeals court decision in a suit brought by plaintiffs including three Christian colleges may compel the Court to step in, as that ruling contradicted the decisions of several other courts. 

The legality of Vermont's all-payer claims database

At issue in Gobeille v. Liberty Mutual Insurance Company is whether or not the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act supersedes Vermont's law that requires insurers to report data to its all-payer claims database. Liberty Mutual argues that it does, and thus refused to provide that state with the information that its law required. 

The Supreme Court agreed June 29 to hear the case, according to the Court's list of cases set to be argued in the term starting in October. Oral arugments have not yet been scheduled for the case, but recently, two major provider groups--the American Hospital Association and the Association of American Medical Colleges-- submitted an amicus brief last month supporting Vermont's stance in the case.

Some experts think the case has the potential to influence how claims data systems throughout the country operate, FierceHealthPayer has reported. If Liberty Mutual wins, other self-funded employers may reconsider how they interact with such state-sponsored databases.Yet proponents of all-payer claims databases say they have the potential to increase price transparency and control healthcare spending.

To learn more:
- here's the Supreme Court's list of October term cases

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