8th Circuit enjoins Obamacare contraceptive mandate for company which voluntarily provided health insurance to employees
On Friday, February 1, 2013, a panel of the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals granted a preliminary injunction pending appeal of enforcement of the Obamacare contraceptive mandate, in the case of Annex Medical, Inc. et al. v. Sebelius.
The decision has not yet received much attention.
A press release by ACT Right Legal Foundation, which represented the plaintiffs, reads as follows:
A Minnesota-based manufacturer of medical devices and a Minnesota entrepreneur challenged the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s mandate that any business that offers a group health insurance plan must provide cost-free coverage for contraception, sterilization and abortifacient drugs.
The plaintiffs allege that this mandate violates their rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, as well as the Administrative Procedures Act.
Plaintiffs hope to vindicate their own rights as well as to create precedent for other religiously-motivated business owners who wish to freely exercise their religious beliefs.
On February 1, 2013, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals granted Annex Medical’s motion for a preliminary injunction pending appeal.
The interesting twist in this case is that because it had fewer than 50 employees, Annex Medical was not required to provide health insurance (unlike a prior litigant, O’Brien). But Annex alleged that if felt morally obligated to provide health insurance, and once it did so, the Obamacare provisions as to what type of insurance kicked in. As summarized in a concluding footnote by the Court:
3. The appellants here and the appellants in O’Brien both say a requirement that they purchase group health insurance with objectionable coverage provisions constitutes a substantial burden on their exercise of religion. The nature of the “requirement,” however, is different in the two cases. The O’Brien appellants were required by statute to purchase health insurance for employees on pain of substantial financial penalties; Lind and Annex Medical (as a smaller employer) are not required by statute to purchase insurance, but Lind alleges that his religion compels him to purchase health insurance for Annex Medical’s employees. In the limited briefing on the motion for injunction pending appeal, the appellees do not urge that this distinction is material, and we conclude that further exploration of that point is best reserved for plenary review after full briefing and argument.
Here is the Court’s Order: