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The Wagner Law Group Description 

The Wagner Law Group, A Professional Corporation, is a nationally recognized ERISA & employee benefits, estate planning, employment, labor & human resources practice. 

 

Established in 1996, The Wagner Law Group has 23 attorneys engaged exclusively in employee benefits, estate planning and employment law. Seven of our attorneys are AV rated by Martindale-Hubbell as having very high to preeminent legal abilities and ethical standards. The firm is among the largest ERISA boutiques in the country. Our practice is national in scope, with clients in more than 40 states and several foreign countries.

 

 

 

 

 

Contact Info

The Wagner Law Group

 

  Integrity | Excellence

  

Massachusetts Office 

Tel: (617) 357-5200 

Fax: (617) 357-5250 

99 Summer Street 

13th Floor

Boston, MA 02110


Florida Office 

Tel: (561) 293-3590
Fax: (561) 293-3591
7108 Fairway Drive
Suite 125
Palm Beach Gardens, FL 33418

   

San Francisco Office

Tel: (415) 625-0002

Fax: (415) 358-8300

315 Montgomery Street

Suite 904

San Francisco, CA 94104

 

www.wagnerlawgroup.com

 

 

 

 

July 10, 2014

 

 State and Federal Law Alert

 

 

 

Supreme Court Rules Certain Religious Employers Exempt from PPACA's Contraceptive Mandate

 

 

 

The U.S. Supreme Court has decided that closely-held, for-profit entities with religious objections are exempt from certain aspects of the contraceptive mandate contained in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act ("PPACA"). In Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., the Court decided that HHS had overstepped its bounds by requiring these employers to offer all forms of birth control.

 

The Court indicated that the scope of its opinion was very limited in that publicly traded corporations would likely be unable to claim the exemption. Moreover, the Court clarified that its ruling does not apply to other medical procedures such as vaccinations or blood transfusions.

 

Background. PPACA requires non-grandfathered health insurance plans to cover "preventive services" at no cost to participants. HHS has identified 20 contraceptives as being covered under PPACA's preventive services mandate.

 

The plaintiff, a closely held, for-profit entity, claimed that PPACA's contraceptive mandate, required it to pay for drugs or procedures that terminate life (i.e., abortifacients), and therefore infringed upon its religious beliefs. Accordingly, the plaintiff sued HHS, claiming that HHS' requirement to provide abortifacients violated its First Amendment rights to freedom of religion.

 

Decision. The Court held that private-as opposed to publicly traded-corporations could be construed as persons for purposes of the religious protections provided under federal law. In reaching this holding, the Court noted that PPACA's contraceptive mandate imposed a substantial burden on the plaintiff's religious beliefs by requiring its owners to engage in conduct that violates their religious beliefs, regardless of whether the contraceptives in question were, in fact, abortifacients.

 

In determining Hobby Lobby, the Court indicated that where the owners of a closely held corporation have a sincerely held religious belief, the federal government's implementation of laws must be done through the least restrictive means. Accordingly, the Court ruled that the plaintiff did not have to comply with the contraceptive mandate because there were less restrictive means for the government to achieve its public interest goals. For example, the government itself could provide the contraceptive benefits to all individuals, without charge.

 

Impact of Hobby Lobby on Employers. The Hobby Lobby decision will impact a very small number of employers, as very few employers can be considered faith-based and, therefore, eligible for the exemption. Nevertheless, the ruling should serve as a reminder that despite differences of opinion on PPACA's rules and requirements, the law is here to stay. Thus, employers need to continue to implement strategies for complying with PPACA and remain alert for new developments.  

 

 

 

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Pursuant to Internal Revenue Service Circular 230, we hereby inform you that any advice set forth herein with respect to US federal tax issues is not intended or written by The Wagner Law Group to be used and cannot be used, by you or any taxpayer, for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed on you or any other person under the Internal Revenue Code.

 

This Newsletter is provided for information purposes by The Wagner Law Group to clients and others who may be interested in the subject matter, and may not be relied upon as specific legal advice.  This material is not to be construed as legal advice or legal opinions on specific facts. Under the Rules of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, this material may be considered advertising.