Supreme Court upholds health care law; archdiocese's lawsuit to continue
The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the Affordable Care Act as constitutional in a decision handed down June 28.
In a 5-4 vote, the court ruled that the law is constitutional; that includes an individual mandate that requires most individuals to purchase health insurance plans.
The justices said that while the mandate does not fall within the powers afforded by the Commerce Clause, the penalty that people must pay if they refuse to buy insurance can be understood instead as a kind of tax that Congress is authorized to impose under its taxing power.
The decision means that the fight over a highly controversial federal contraception mandate will continue. The mandate would have automatically perished if the law had been struck down. Issued by the Department of Health and Human Services under authority granted by the Affordable Care Act, the mandate will require employers to offer health insurance plans that cover contraception, sterilization and early abortion-inducing drugs, even if doing so violates their consciences.
The mandate has drawn widespread criticism from individuals and organizations representing a variety of religious and political backgrounds. Lawsuits challenging the regulation have been filed by more than 50 plaintiffs across the country. The Archdiocese of St. Louis and Catholic Charities of St. Louis are among the organizations who have filed suit.
The following is a statement from the Archdiocese of St. Louis:
“We are studying the Supreme Court’s decision today to determine whether and how it impacts our case. The USCCB and the Archdiocese of St. Louis have not joined in efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act in its entirety. We continue to advocate for comprehensive health care reform to ensure access to life-affirming health care for all, especially the poorest and most vulnerable. We continue to urge Congress to pass, and the Administration to sign, comprehensive health care reform legislation that protects religious liberty and conscience rights, that does not use federal funds to pay for elective abortions or plans that cover these (longstanding federal policy), and that treats immigrant workers and their families fairly. The Affordable Care Act, in its current form, does not meet these criteria.”
In a statement released June 28, the U.S. bishops reiterated that they “have been and continue to be consistent advocates for comprehensive health care reform to ensure access to life-affirming health care for all, especially the poorest and the most vulnerable.” And they have not been part of any effort to repeal the law in its entirety.
However, “the bishops ultimately opposed final passage of ACA (Affordable Care Act) for several reasons,” the statement continued. They include:
• The law allows use of federal funds to pay for elective abortions and for plans that cover abortions, contradicting longstanding federal policy. “The risk we identified in this area has already materialized, particularly in the initial approval by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) of ‘high risk’ insurance pools that would have covered abortion.”
• The act doesn’t include conscience protection language, both within and beyond the abortion context. “We have provided extensive analyses of ACA’s defects with respect to both abortion and conscience. The lack of statutory conscience protections applicable to ACA’s new mandates has been illustrated in dramatic fashion by HHS’s ‘preventive services’ mandate, which forces religious and other employers to cover sterilization and contraception, including abortifacient drugs.”
• The act also doesn’t treat immigrant workers, and their families, in a fair manner. “ACA leaves them worse off by not allowing them to purchase health coverage in the new exchanges created under the law, even if they use their own money. This undermines the act’s stated goal of promoting access to basic life-affirming health care for everyone, especially for those most in need.”
“The decision of the Supreme Court neither diminishes the moral imperative to ensure decent health care for all, nor eliminates the need to correct the fundamental flaws described above,” according to the bishops’ statement. “We therefore continue to urge Congress to pass, and the Administration to sign, legislation to fix those flaws.”
Some information was provided by Catholic News Agency.
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