Catholic Colleges May Avoid Obama HHS Mandate for One Year

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jul 18, 2012   |   11:19AM   |   Washington, DC

Catholic colleges worrying about running afoul of the new Obama HHS mandate that requires payment and referral for abortion-causing drugs and birth control in their health care plans may be able to take advantage of a one-year reprieve.

Although the details are sketchy, the Cardinal Newman Society, a Catholic educational watchdog group, says there may be a way to avoid the massive penalties for not complying with the Obama HHS mandate.

“As the August 1 deadline to comply with the HHS mandate approaches and Catholic institutions decide what to do with their current health insurance plans, The Cardinal Newman Society is encouraging Catholic colleges and universities to utilize available opportunities to avoid or delay compliance with the mandate,” the group says. “For Catholic universities seeking to delay this decision, it is important to note that the implementation of the current healthcare legislation includes language which could allow qualified institutions to postpone compliance with the HHS mandate for an additional year.”

CNS obtained new analysis about the mandate from the pro-life legal group Alliance Defending Freedom (formerly Alliance Defense Fund) indicating qualified organizations can take advantage of a “temporary one-year enforcement safe harbor” in order to put off compliance with the mandate.

The “safe harbor” is effective with insurance plan renewals occurring after August 1, 2012, but employers must take initiative to protect their rights, CNS says.

In the letter ADF provided to CNS, Matthew Bowman, its top attorney, says the “details are not entirely clear” about how the one-year safe harbor works.

“The administration published a “Guidance” document dated February 10, 2012.1 It claims that for a one-year time period, a religious non-profit might be eligible to avoid some consequences of the HHS Mandate on their employee health plans. A later document issued by the administration claims that the same Guidance applies to student health plans,” Bowman explained.

“For employee plans that qualify, the federal government agencies promise not to enforce their HHS Mandate until the plan year that begins after August 1, 2013,” he continued. “This would relieve the organization of government fines and lawsuits due to omitting contraception etc. from their plan. This would not, however, prevent employees from suing the organization for its failure to cover contraception, etc. as required by the HHS Mandate. Thus, the self-identified “safe harbor” is not actually safe.”



“For student health plans, the government likewise promises not to enforce their HHS Mandate until the plan year that begins after August 1, 2013,” Bowman adds. “The lawsuit remedy that Obamacare creates for employees is not available to student enrollees, so the “safe harbor” is apparently safer with respect to student plans than it is for employee plans.”

With a federal judge, yesterday, dismissing one of the several lawsuits filed against the mandate, any way in which colleges, businesses, and organizations find somehow opt out of or delay implementing the mandate will prove helpful.