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Supreme Court looks at what should be. We deal with what is

The first Monday of October is a date of note for nearly every attorney. That's the date on which each new term of the U.S. Supreme Court begins. At this early stage of things, it's not clear exactly what cases might to get the nod to be heard, but there is general agreement that the issue of health insurance for female contraception will receive attention.

Considering the potential that this issue has in sparking compliance disputes over benefits, it seems certain that readers here in Texas and the rest of the country will want to have this matter on their radar. We know business and employment law attorneys across the country will be watching things.

The question at the root of numerous petitions from lower circuit courts is a provision of the Affordable Care Act that mandates that employer-sponsored health plans include coverage for doctor-approved contraceptives for women as a matter of preventive health care.

In a bow to employers who object to birth control on religious grounds, the Department of Health and Human Services developed a rule that allows employers to opt out of paying for the coverage. Insurers still have to provide the benefit. Where employers self-insure, the coverage is supposed to provided by a third-party insurer.

The challenges that are before the court are from organizations that object even to the opt-out system. Their argument is that the system still leaves them in the position of facilitating contraception against their beliefs, which amounts to an undue burden under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Bolstering the expectation that the issue will get a hearing is the fact that lower courts have come back with conflicting opinions. A decision on how to proceed is expected soon with a final decision then anticipated in June.

In the meantime, employers with labor or employment law questions should be consulting experienced legal counsel now for effective resolution of issues.

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