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Alabama files new lawsuit over US health care law

Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange [official website; press release] and Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) [media website; press release], a Roman Catholic broadcasting network, filed a suit on Monday in federal court to challenge the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) [text; JURIST backgrounder] provision that requires employers to include contraception and abortion-inducing drugs in their employees' health care plans. The lawsuit, filed in the US District Court for the Southern District of Alabama [official website], asserts that "the government should not be in the business of forcing people to violate their religious convictions." In addition to arguing for religious freedom, the lawsuit asserts that "the State of Alabama has a sovereign prerogative to regulate its insurance market in accordance with its own law and policy, without being contradicted by unlawful federal regulations." EWTN tried unsuccessfully to challenge the provision in February 2012, but their suit was dismissed [press release] in March 2013 as premature. The group insists that the issue is now ripe for discussion, as their deadline for compliance is approaching.

The PPACA has been subject to various challenges. Last week, a federal judge declined [JURIST report] to issue a preliminary injunction against the insurance subsidies provision of the PPACA. Also last week, Hobby Lobby filed a brief [JURIST report] urging the US Supreme Court to review its case regarding the constitutionality of the PPACA birth-control mandate. In July the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit [official website] upheld [JURIST report] Congress' authority to require larger employers to provide adequate health insurance for their employees or pay a fine. Liberty University had brought the challenge and the US Supreme Court remanded [JURIST report] the case to the Fourth Circuit that in turn determined that the plaintiffs failed to state a claim on which relief could be granted. In June 2012 the Supreme Court ruled [JURIST report] that the PPACA does not violate the constitution in a case that focused on the "individual mandate" provision of the act, which requires every person, with some exceptions for religious and other reasons, to purchase some form of health insurance by January 1, 2014, or be subject to a fee equal to either a percent of that individual's income or flat rate of $695.

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