Nursing homes in large insurance network temporarily spared from ACA contraceptives rule

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Skilled nursing facility Villa St. Francis and other members of the nationwide Catholic Benefits Association do not have to offer health plans covering contraception while they pursue litigation against the government, a federal judge has ruled.

Villa St. Francis — a 170-bed SNF in Olathe, KS — was one of the named plaintiffs in a class-action lawsuit filed in March. The suit was not the first to challenge the Affordable Care Act's mandate that employers offer health plans that include birth control as an “essential benefit.” However, according to the Catholic Benefits Association (CBA), it was the first to include three different types of plaintiffs: houses of worship; “ministries” such as Catholic nursing homes and other healthcare facilities; and Catholic-owned for-profit businesses.

All of these types of CBA members now have a temporary reprieve from the so-called employer mandate while the case is litigated, according to a ruling late Wednesday from the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma. In all, the CBA says it has more than 400 employer members. The association aids its members in providing healthcare plans for employees, including through its wholly-owned subsidiary, The Catholic Insurance Company.

Like nursing home operator Little Sisters of the Poor and other objectors to the employer mandate, the CBA plaintiffs argue that they are being forced either to violate their morals or pay steep fines to the government.

“Compliance [with the mandate] means material cooperation with evil,” the CBA complaint states.

Critics of these lawsuits say that the government already has created a way for employers to opt out of the mandate on moral grounds.

The Supreme Court recently heard oral arguments in the highest profile case against the employer mandate, brought by the owners of the Hobby Lobby chain of craft stores. The Hobby Lobby plaintiffs received a favorable ruling from same federal court in Oklahoma that handed down the CBA decision.