The claimants and the federal government have now both filed their supplemental briefs, as requested by the Supreme Court in the order I discussed here. Reply briefs are due April 20.
After denying that any change to what it presently offers to nonprofits is needed, the basic thrust of the government’s brief is that (1) the Court’s proposal would not work for self-insured claimants; and (2) the Court’s proposal would only work for others “but only at a real cost to its effective implementation.” At page 15, the government says this about those claimants with insured plans: “In theory, however, the government could provide that the same legal obligations arise following any request by an eligible employer with an insured plan for an insurance policy that excluded contraceptives to which the employer objects on religious grounds.” The exact mechanism through which this would work for self-insured plans remains unclear. The brief concludes by asking for a definitive resolution from the Court.
The claimants’ brief argues that (1) yes, as to insured claimants, there are many ways in which the employees of objecting claimants can receive the free coverage the government wants them to receive: it could impose a regulatory requirement on insurers to provide a separate plan for such employees, not backed by the threat of what are described as “draconian penalties” on the employers. Employees would have 2 insurance cards instead of 1; and (2) as to self-insured claimants, there is a related less restrictive means as well: “If commercial insurance companies begin making truly separate contraceptive coverage available to the employees of petitioners with insured plans as contemplated by this Court’s order, then there should be no legal obstacle to allowing additional individuals to enroll in those plans, whether directly through the insurer or through the Exchanges. Indeed, making such contraceptive-only plans available to employees of petitioners with self-insured plans would underscore that such coverage is truly separate from the coverage provided by petitioners that use commercial insurers, as employees of other employers would be receiving essentially the same contraceptive-only policies.” (20)