After Losing to Hobby Lobby, Obama Admin Pushes Crippling Fines for HHS Mandate Violators

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Aug 22, 2014   |   1:48PM   |   Washington, DC

After losing to Hobby Lobby at the Supreme Court in a case about whether certain businesses who object to paying for abortion-causing drugs for their employees must follow the HHS mandate, the Obama administration has revised the HHS mandate rules.

The revisions target religious nonprofits and those pro-life companies like Hobby Lobby.

The Obama administration released a fact sheet on the newly-proposed HHS mandate rule pertaining to non-profit organizations and closely held for-profit entities, like Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties. The factsheet on the new rules makes it clear that the HHS mandate violates the conscience rights of non-profit organizations and family businesses across the country.

littlesisters3According to the factsheet, the Obama administration will publish two new regulations relating to the HHS preventive services mandate. One is an interim final rule regarding an additional mechanism for non-profits to provide notification of their objection to the mandate. The second is a proposed final rule and request for comment on applying an accommodation procedure to for-profit businesses, like family-owned companies Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood.

The upshot of the new rules? As Arina Grossu, Director for the Center for Human Dignity at the Family Research Council, tells LifeNews, it’s “the threat of crippling fines on non-profits who stand up for their freedom of conscience.”

“What remains an insulting accounting gimmick does not protect the rights of Americans with sincere conscientious objections. It is simply another clerical layer to an already existing accounting gimmick that does nothing to protect religious freedom because the employer still remains the legal gateway by which these drugs and services will be provided to their employees,” she said. “It’s very disappointing that the Obama administration is doubling down on its plans to punish charities and non-profits that assist the poor and homeless, who in some cases have nowhere else to turn for assistance.”

“Effective immediately, this latest rule still orders charities like the Little Sisters of the Poor, non-profit Christian colleges like Wheaton College, and religious broadcasters like EWTN to violate their consciences simply because they legally contract for health coverage,” Grossu continued. “The government uses their contract as the basis to force their insurers to provide their employees with free contraception and drugs that can kill human embryos, against their sincere conscientious beliefs.”

“If these charities and non-profits follow their conscience and decline to participate in the meaningless accounting gimmick, the administration will make them pay huge penalties accruable on a daily basis — one hundred dollars per employee per day,” she said.

“Additionally, the government is also soliciting comment on new ways to force family businesses to violate their deeply held moral and religious convictions due to the HHS mandate in an attempt to address and skirt the recent Supreme Court ruling. However, the government’s actions here still force family businesses to be complicit in what they view as morally wrong,” Grossu added.

Per the CMS factsheet, the interim final rule will create an additional option for how religious nonprofits may register their objection to the HHS preventive services mandate. Instead of filling out the self-certification form (created in the July 2013 final rules), a religious nonprofit may notify HHS in writing of its objection.

Then, as the factsheet provided by CMS goes on to explain, “HHS will then notify the insurer for an insured health plan, or the Department of Labor will notify the TPA for a self-insured plan, that the organization objects to providing contraception coverage and that the insurer or TPA is responsible for providing enrollees in the health plan separate no-cost payments for contraceptive services for as long as they remain enrolled in the health plan. Regardless of whether the eligible organization self-certifies in accordance with the July 2013 final rules, or provides notice to HHS in accordance with the August 2014 IFR, the obligations of insurers and/or TPAs regarding providing or arranging separate payments for contraceptive services are the same, as discussed in this Fact Sheet. The interim final rule solicits comments but is effective on date of publication in the Federal Register.”

The accommodation created under the July 2013 final rule remains in effect. Today’s announcement creates another notification procedure, which produces the same effect. There are over 50 cases of religious nonprofits suing in objection to the adequacy of the accommodation created by the July 2013 final rule.

In addition, today’s announcement includes notice of a proposed rule to apply the “accommodation” to certain for-profit companies. This includes a request for comments on a new proposed rule for how to define closely-held corporations and how these for-profit organizations (like Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood) will provide notification of their objection to providing contraception coverage.

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Grossu, of the Family Research Council, told LifeNews, “The Family Research Council urges the administration to offer a full exemption from the mandate to charities and non-profits that have sincere conscientious objections and to respect the Supreme Court’s ruling regarding family businesses like Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties.”

Lori Windham, Senior Counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, told LifeNews that charities should not be punished for standing up for their pro-life beliefs.

“Religious ministries in these cases serve tens of thousands of Americans, helping the poor and homeless and healing the sick. The Little Sisters of the Poor alone serve more than ten thousand of the elderly poor. These charities want to continue following their faith. They want to focus on ministry—such as sharing their faith and serving the poor—without worrying about the threat of massive IRS penalties,” she said.