CLIENT ALERT: Morally Compliant Medical Benefits for Ministries
March 2013

Much has been in the news about President Obama's Affordable Care Act and the new abortifacient/contraceptive mandate. When Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced this mandate, she also said there would be a religious exemption for some employers. The problem is that the exemption is so narrow that many ministries will not qualify. In addition, many state insurance laws have a similar mandate, often with no religious exemption.

Many leaders of churches, denominations, faith-based social services agencies, religious colleges, religious hospitals, and other ministries now wonder whether the medical benefits coverage they now provide for employees complies with their own ethical teachings. Does your present group medical plan pay for abortifacients? Does it pay for sterilizations, birth control, or abortion? The real question for ministries is this: Is your ministry practicing what it preaches? Or is it saying one thing and doing another?

Given the extraordinary legal developments associated with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act and with the enactment of many similar state insurance laws, many ministries are now reviewing their policies to determine whether their medical benefits include contraceptive, abortifacient, sterilization, or abortion coverage. Because ministries, insurers, legislators, and rule makers often use different definitions for "pregnancy," "contraceptive," and "abortifacient," many ministries have found it helpful to engage knowledgeable counsel to assist.

When our religious institution clients began to call us with requests for such reviews, we have found that a substantial percentage have been paying for their employees to receive medical benefits that the ministry teaches are immoral.
Our firm has one of the nation's leading religious institution practices. Our attorneys include not only First Amendment advocates but also medical benefits counsel. For this reason, we are well situated to assist clients with acquiring morally compliant medical benefits.