`Obamacare Pro’s and Con’s of Enrolment by 31 March 2014 or risk paying a fine ‘

#AceHealthcareNews says according to WASHINGTON (AP) that everyone is sick of hearing about the health care law?
With plenty of people have tuned out after all the political jabber and website woes.

But now is the time to tune back in, before it’s too late, as we are being told that the big deadline is coming March 31.

By that day, for the first time, nearly everyone in the United States is required to be signed up for health insurance or risk paying a fine.

Healthcare.govHere’s what you need to know about this month’s open enrolment countdown:

ALREADY COVERED? NO WORRIES

Most people don’t need to do anything. Even before the health care law passed in 2010, more than 8 out of 10 U.S. residents had coverage, usually through their workplace plans or the government’s Medicare or Medicaid programs. Some have private policies that meet the law’s requirements.

If you’re already covered that way, you meet the law’s requirements.

Since October, about 4 million people have signed up for private plans through the new state and federal marketplaces, the Obama administration says, although it’s not clear how many were already insured elsewhere. In addition, many poor adults now have Medicaid coverage for the first time through expansions of the program in about half the states.

President Barack Obama is urging people who have coverage to help any uninsured friends and relatives get signed up.

NEED COVERAGE? IT’S CRUNCH TIME

Chances are you’ll hear more reminders about health care this month. The push is on to reach millions of uninsured people.

The administration, insurers, medical associations and non-profit groups are teaming up with volunteers to get the word out and guide people through the sometimes-rocky enrollment process. They plan special events at colleges, libraries, churches and work sites.

Singing cats, dogs, parrots — even a goldfish — are promoting the message in TV and online spots from the Ad Council.

A big hurdle for the effort: As recently as last month, three-fourths of the uninsured didn’t know there was a March 31 deadline, according to polling conducted for the Kaiser Family Foundation. Most said they didn’t know much about the law and had an unfavourable opinion of it.

Plus, many worry they won’t be able to afford the new plans.

The enrolment campaign is emphasizing that subsidies are available on a sliding scale to help low-income and middle-class households pay for their insurance.

How to enrol? Start at HealthCare.gov or by calling 1-800-318-2596. Residents of states running their own marketplaces will be directed there; people in other states go through the federal exchange.

After March 31, many people won’t be able to get subsidized coverage this year, even if they become seriously ill.

The next open enrolment period is set to begin Nov. 15, for coverage in 2015.

DEADLINE DETAILS

There are exceptions. The big one is the Medicaid program for the poor.

People who meet the requirements can sign up any time, with no deadline.

Also, people remain eligible for Medicare when they turn 65.

If you are insured now and lose your coverage during the year, by getting laid off from your job, for example, you can use an exchange to find a new policy then. People can sign up outside the open enrolment period in special situations such as having a baby or moving to another state.

You can choose to buy insurance outside the marketplaces and still benefit from consumer protections in the law.

People who do that wouldn’t normally be eligible for premium subsidies. But the Obama administration says exceptions will be made for people whose attempts to buy marketplace insurance on time were stymied by continuing problems with some enrolment websites.

MILLIONS OF PEOPLE WON’T GET COVERED

Some 12 million people could gain health coverage this year because of the law, if congressional auditors’ predictions don’t prove overly optimistic.

Even so, tens of millions still would go without.

That’s partly because of immigrants in the country illegally; they aren’t eligible for marketplace policies.

Some of the uninsured will not find out about the program in time, will find it confusing or too costly, or will just procrastinate too long. Some feel confident of their health and prefer to risk going uninsured instead of paying premiums. Others are philosophically opposed to participating.

Figuring out just how many of the uninsured got coverage this year won’t be easy because the numbers are fuzzy.

The administration’s enrolment count includes people who already were insured and used the exchanges to find a better deal, or switched from private insurance to Medicaid, or already qualified for Medicaid before the changes.

Some who sign up will end up uninsured anyway, if they fail to pay their premiums.

The budget experts predict enrolment will grow in future years and by 2017 some 92 percent of legal residents too young for Medicare will have insurance.

But even then, about 30 million people in the United States would go uncovered.

SOME ARE LEFT OUT

A gap in the law means some low-income workers can’t get help.

The insurance marketplaces weren’t designed to serve people whose low incomes qualify them for expanded Medicaid instead. But some states have declined to expand their Medicaid programs. That means that in those states, many poor people will get left out.

People who fall into the gap won’t be penalized for failing to get covered.

Some others are exempt from the insurance mandate, too: American Indians, those with religious objections, prisoners, immigrants in the country illegally, and people considered too poor to buy coverage even with financial assistance.

THE IRS IS WATCHING YOU

The law says people who aren’t covered in 2014 are liable for a fine. That amounts to $95 per uninsured person or approximately 1 percent of income, whichever is higher. The penalty goes up in later years.

A year from now, the Internal Revenue Service will be asking taxpayers filing their forms for proof of insurance coverage. Insurance companies are supposed to provide that documentation to their customers.

If you owe a penalty for being uninsured, the IRS can withhold it from your refund.

The agency can’t put people in jail or garnishee wages to get the money. But it can withhold the penalty from a future year’s tax refund.

Courtesy of: #ConnieCass

#AHN2014

 

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TheObamaCrat™ SoapBox: How We Treat Our Elderly ♥

#AceHealthcareNews says reading this l can relate to your post entirely.
As having looked after my mother now for a period of 30 years, since my dad died of cancer in 1984.
The last 5 years has been the worst as her health declined and 2 years ago she had fallen 41 times, lucky not to have broken a hip.
Now she is totally unable to walk and is housebound, and unable to work, my mood has gone from hope, to despair and back again.
Now l look at the fact if l had not spent 10 years of my life in Care Homes and in the Community Caring, l would not be able to do all l have done.
So now l thank God and care as much as l can ,for another fellow human being, whatever her condition, is or will be in the future, as onset of dementia is now, my next hurdle.

#mustreadpost

#obamacrat, #elderly, #soapbox

#NHS ” Talk About Not Being Able to Tell the Truth”

#AceHealthNews says according to Nadine Dorris the NHS is in good hands, with the Conservatives in charge. Of course Labour and many of the of public, do not agree.

My colleague Kev sent me this post and his words says it all ” Talk about not being able to own up to anything” but then what really is  behind people thinking the NHS has no money, well let me answer this the only way l know how, having spent over 5 years trying to understand the system.

It all, starts one day when one elderly person goes into decline, and you need to consider their healthcare, and the more you get embroiled in the system, the more you realise, that is really simple!

There is plenty of money, it is all ring fenced and this allows all essential services to be starved, of funding.  

This creates what has come to be called a “Two Tier System” whereby the people who need essential care, who cannot understand the system, do not get it, and those that “Do Not Take No For An Answer” such as myself, can get what other people already have got with a little work.

Though there is a much deeper reason for starving our   NHS and that is essential services, can be farmed out to a “Third Party Contractor” this present Government has turned this into an art, and can make us mere mortal’s ,believe their rhetoric.

Their favourite words are watch-words – such as `it is for your own good’  or `we are looking after your children’s future’ making people believe they really care – `they do not’ – all they care about is putting in place, the legacy of `Maggie Thatcher‘ and finishing what she started.

The Way is Contractor’s 

<

p style=”text-align:center;”>These companies who you already know or have heard of are called names like Serco  that according to a Guardian Report in April 2013 

It was almost two years ago that whistle-blowers exposed the failings of the privatised out-of-hours GP service run by Serco in Cornwall. Yesterday, finally, they were vindicated. The powerful parliamentary public accounts committee summoned Serco and the NHS body responsible for commissioning them, the Cornwall primary care trust, and gave them the roasting they deserved for a culture of “lying and cheating” and for “shocking” inadequacies in writing and monitoring the contract. The committee had asked the National Audit Office to report on the service after revelations in the Guardian. Members from all parties were excoriating in their judgment of Serco’s behaviour and the inability of the trust to hold the company, which has £2.4bn of public-sectorcontracts in the UK, to account.

The bigger question, however, is whether NHS patients will be any better protected in future as more services are put out to tender. Serco’s health business is growing rapidly – it has £300m worth of contracts in the sector. Other than a dent to its reputation, it has suffered no penalty. It has not been fined for lying and breaching its contract, nor has it lost the job. Its public-sector business just keeps getting bigger as its share price rises. If a private company behaved this way to another private company over a contract, it would find itself in court. Not so when rapacious corporates (the committee’s description) do business with the public sector. A small sorry is enough.

Contractors and Subcontractors pdf   according to National Audit Office the use of contractors and sub-contractors is increasing in the NHS, yet evidence suggests that a third of trusts believe they have limited control over their contractors’ health and safety. 

These people are this Governments `Chosen Few’ and they are the ones who will support the Government and in so doing will get their “Earthly Reward” of these large “Taxpayer Funded” contracts.

Personally l do not see  this as good news for the country and especially the NHS as this leads to that “Two Tier System l told you about, but this time it will be Private Healthcare V’s Free at Point of Delivery.   

 

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Government Health Care in Britain: Elderly denied life-extending treatments

#AHN2014

#acehealthcarenews, #acehealthnews, #britain, #government

#AceHealthNews: “Protecting Your Family Against Flu Can Have Side-Affects”

#AceHealthNews says Scientist exposes flu shots lies and doom-and-gloom media propaganda

Sunday, January 19, 2014
by Mike Adams, the Health Ranger
Editor of NaturalNews.com (See all articles…)
Tags: scientistflu shot liesmedia propaganda

The mainstream media has utterly abandoned science in the push for more flu shot propaganda, entirely failing to mention any of the risks associated with vaccines. According to nearly every story published in the mainstream media, flu shot vaccines offer almost certain protection against the flu while carrying absolute zero risk (risk is never mentioned).

Such a position is utterly anti-scientific. All medical interventions carry inherent risk, and this is especially so when vaccines admittedly contain mercury, MSG, formaldehyde and aluminum, all potent neurotoxic chemicals or heavy metals.

This is why vaccines routinely cause seizures in children, fevers, vomiting, comas and even death. The risk of this becoming known to the public is so great that a private, unconstitutional court called the “vaccine court” was established in order to pay off parents of vaccine-damaged children while requiring them to sign non-disclosure agreements to force them into silence. (Click here to see the astonishing video revealing this.)

Media stories that don’t mention flu shot risks are irresponsible and may cause harm to the public

Any media source that publishes an article pushing flu shots without offering a reasonable discussion of the inherent risk from doing so is acting in a highly irresponsible manner, potentially putting millions of children in harm’s way. Yet mainstream media journalists routinely fail to discuss any risks whatsoever of vaccines, almost as if such risks did not exist.

These journalists are either scientifically illiterate and not aware of such risks, or they are actively deciding to censor such discussions from their stories, thereby conspiring with the vaccine industry to keep the public ignorant of a medical intervention which may cause them serious harm or death. Such actions are highly unethical and smack of a complete lack of journalistic professionalism.

Watch the new Health Ranger video explanation

To learn more about flu shot propaganda, media lies and the abandonment of real science by the vaccine industry, watch this new screen cast video I just posted:

 

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#Chefs-tip : “Healthy Eating Bok Choy Recipe”

#acefoodnews, #acehealthcarenews, #acehealthnews, #chefs-tip, #bok-choy, #healthy-eating

“Fifty Percent of Britain’s Population Obese by 2050 Leading to Massive Health Costs of Fifty Billion”

#AceHealthNews says according to latest health reports , the prognosis that only half the UK population will be obese by 2050 ”underestimate the true scale of the problem,” a new report has warned. The National Obesity Forum says Britain is in for the worst case obesity scenario.

What scientists call "Overweight" ch...

What scientists call “Overweight” changes with our knowledge of human health (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“It is entirely reasonable to conclude that the determinations of the 2007 Foresight Report (i.e. that half the population might be obese by 2050 at an annual cost of nearly 50 billion pounds), while shocking at the time, may now underestimate the scale of the problem,” the report by the National Obesity Forumstated.

“Obesity and weight management are a direct cause of many health problems and are already placing enormous demands on the NHS at a time when health resources are stretched like never before. The current situation is unsustainable,” Professor David Haslam, the forum’s chair said.

Hard-hitting action is needed to tackle the problem, experts say.

Picture of an Obese Teenager (146kg/322lb) wit...

Picture of an Obese Teenager (146kg/322lb) with Central Obesity, side view. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

According to the UK Department of Health, most people are overweight or obese in England. This includes 61.9 percent of adults and 28 percent of children aged between 2 and 15.

The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges’ 2013 report on obesity stated that the UK had become “the fat man of Europe”.

An abundance of obesity has been linked to three major factors: Fast food, ready meals and lack of exercise. People munch their high-calorie guilty-food pleasures, such as burgers and fries, and drink their beers and milk shakes sitting in front of their TV’s and PCs. A sedentary lifestyle is turning families into couch potatoes, with obesity guaranteed. What’s even worse is that the disease boosts the risk of heart disease, type-2 diabetes, cancer, hypertension, osteoarthritis and depression, just to name a few. According to the UK’s Faculty of Public Health, these diseases together cause over 10,000 obesity-related premature deaths annually in Britain.

“Studies and data published since 2007 demonstrate the increased prevalence of obesity, morbid obesity and wider weight management issues. They show how widespread poor nutrition and food choices are among the population, and how little knowledge exists about proper hydration and its importance,”David Haslam noted.

 

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Medicare Drug Plan: “How People Get Caught Up in the Medicare Drug Fraud”

#AceHealthNews says when you are elderly and infirm ,would you expect your doctor, drug company and advisers, to give you a “Medicare Drug Plan” you do not really need. Well according to this recent article that is exactly what happened to this person, under this “Medicare Drug Fraud” read the story ……………………………………………. below: comment and share

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (Me...

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (Medicaid administrator) logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Story of the Events:

At another time in her life, Denise Heap might have tossed aside the insurance forms listing the drugs prescribed to her mother.

The “explanation of benefits” forms came like clockwork and didn’t require any action on her part.

But Heap was worried about her mother, Joyce, who was in the end stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Her health had inexplicably declined in the Los Angeles-area nursing home where she’d been living. So in April, when a thick envelope arrived from her mother’s Medicare drug plan, Heap scrutinized it.

What she found was frightening: Her 77-year-old mother was receiving a raft of medications Heap had never seen before.

As Heap began Googling the drugs, she realized something was drastically wrong. Either her mother was being given expensive medications for conditions she didn’t have 2014 such as breast cancer, asthma, emphysema and high cholesterol 2014 or something sinister was going on: Someone was using her mother to steal drugs.

“I flipped,” Heap said. Medicare’s prescription program, known as Part D, paid for more than “$10,000 worth of meds” in just three months, she said.

She first called Medicare to report her suspicions, she said, then the insurance company that managed her mother’s Medicare drug plan. Neither, she said, seemed very concerned.

“I was like, No, No, No,  You have to understand. I am trying to help you guys,'” she said.

Soon, Heap became convinced someone had stolen her mother’s identity while she was living at a nursing home run by an Armenian couple. The couple kept moving the location of the nursing home. And Heap believed they had over-sedated her mother with high doses of antipsychotics, inappropriately treating her blood pressure and allowing bed bugs to feast on her.

“I knew something crooked was going on,” said Heap, 59, who, with her mother, had co-founded a Holocaust education nonprofit in the 1990s to document stories of German resistance to Hitler.

Frustrated, Heap called Los Angeles County sheriff‘s Sgt. Steve Opferman, head of a task force specializing in prescription drug fraud. As soon as Heap began describing what had happened, Opferman said he knew her mother had been caught up in a fraud scheme involving Armenian organized crime.

Opferman and other investigators say criminals wager that patients and their families will not be like Heap. They bank on the fact that their victims 2014 Medicare beneficiaries 2014 will be too old or too sick to review insurance forms summarizing the medications and services billed in their names. And they count on the tendency of busy family members to give such forms a cursory glance, if that.

“Suffice it to say most people don’t pay attention, let alone know what they’re looking at,” Opferman said.

But Heap’s case, and others like it, shows the important role patients and their families can play in uncovering fraud within Part D. The program now covers 36 million seniors and disabled people and fills 1 in 4 prescriptions nationwide. Last year, it cost taxpayers $62 billion.

In an earlier report, ProPublica found that Medicare’s system for pursuing such fraud is so cumbersome and poorly run that schemes can quickly siphon away millions. Tips such as Heap’s can come into private insurers, which run Part D for Medicare, to contractors hired by Medicare to spot fraud, or to the U.S. Department of Health Human Services inspector general, which investigates health care fraud. But only a small percentage of cases funneled through this chain are prosecuted.

Reporters, using Medicare’s own data, were able to identify scores of doctors whose prescribing within the program followed known patterns of fraud: the cost of doctors’ prescribing jumped dramatically 2014 sometimes by millions of dollars 2014 from one year to the next and they chose brand-name drugs that scammers’ can easily resell.

Some doctors claimed that they 2014 like some of the patients involved 2014 were unwitting victims of identity theft. In other cases, federal investigators found, the doctors were paid for writing bogus or inappropriate prescriptions.

In a response to these findings, a Medicare official said more focus has been placed on fraud detection within Part D.

SpirivaThe drugs listed on Joyce Heap’s explanation of benefits forms are those most-desired in such fraud schemes. They included the asthma drugs Spiriva and Advair Diskus, for which her insurance plan paid nearly $270 a month each, the cholesterol drug Crestor, which cost nearly $170, and the antipsychotic Abilify, for which the plan paid about $920 for a 30-day supply.

Advair DiskusOpferman said Heap’s call launched an investigation that uncovered a large Part D scheme allegedly connecting the owners of the nursing home to a North Hollywood pharmacy operation, including evidence that other residents’ identities were used. A September search of the pharmacy where Heap’s mother’s prescriptions were filled found evidence that drugs were being relabeled or repackaged for resale, he said.

The doctor who prescribed the drugs has denied prescribing the majority of them, Opferman said. The case is now part of an ongoing investigation by California’s Department of Justice and his group, he said.

Opferman said investigators might never have known of the scheme without Heap’s tip.

Joyce Heap didn’t live long after her daughter unearthed the problems.

She improved briefly after moving to a new nursing home, where a doctor reduced her psychiatric medications, Denise Heap said. But she died of a heart attack on April 21.

In the months following her mother’s death, Heap said, she sent letters alerting Medicare and her mother’s insurer to the possible fraud. In July she wrote, “Please note that 100% of the prescriptions charged in April 2013 2026 are FRAUDULENT.”

Heap said she is “outraged” Medicare didn’t follow-up and ask detailed questions about her allegations. In fact, it was either her insurer or Medicare 2014 she can’t recall which 2014 that recommended she call the local sheriff if she was worried.

“I would have thought immediately they would have gotten on it,” she said.

But Heap said she is mostly tormented that she didn’t know such fraud schemes existed 2014 and that elderly people like her mother could become prey.

“It’s a hard thing to live with,” she said, tearfully. “I feel like I failed.”

Follow: AceNewsServices

 Courtesy of:  Tracy Weber and Charles Ornstein ProPublica,  Dec. 31, 2013, 10:20 a.m.

 

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Big Data+Big Pharma = Big Money

#AceHealthNews says a recent article courtesy of Charles Ornstein ProPublica,  dated Jan. 10, 2014, 12 p.m.

Need another reminder of how much drug-makers spend to discover what doctors are prescribing? Look no further than new documents from the leading keeper of such data.

IMS HealthcareIMS Health Holdings Inc. says it pulled in nearly $2 billion in the first nine months of 2013, much of it from sweeping up data from pharmacies and selling it to pharmaceutical and biotech companies. The firm’s revenues in 2012 reached $2.4 billion, about 60 percent of it from selling such information.

The numbers became public because IMS, currently in private hands, recently filed to make a public stock offering. The company’s prospectus gives fresh insight into the huge dollars 2013 and huge volumes of data 2013 flowing through a little-watched industry.

IMS and its competitors are known as prescription drug information intermediaries. Drug company sales representatives, using data these companies supply, can know before entering a doctor’s office if he or she favours their products or those of a competitor. The industry is controversial, with some doctors and patient groups saying it threatens the privacy of private medical information.

The data maintained by the industry is huge. IMS, based in Danbury, Conn., says its collection includes “over 85 percent of the world’s prescriptions by sales revenue,” as well as comprehensive, anonymous medical records for 400 million patients.  

All of this adds up to 10 petabytes worth of material 2014 or about 10 million gigabytes, a figure roughly equal to all of the websites and online books, movies, music and TV shows that have been stored by the non-profit Internet Archive.

IMS StatisticsIMS Health says it processes and brings order to more than 45 billion health care transactions each year from more than 780,000 different feeds around the world. “All of the top 100 global pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies are clients” of its products, the firm’s prospectus says.

Dr. Randall Stafford, a Stanford University professor who has used IMS data for his research, said the company has grown markedly in recent years through acquisitions of competitors and other companies that host and analyze data. As the pharmaceutical industry has consolidated, he says, IMS has evolved by offering more services and expanding in China and India.

“They’ve tried to beef up their competitiveness in some areas by making all of these acquisitions,” he said.

IMS has especially expanded its database of anonymous patient records, which can match patients’ diagnoses with their prescriptions and track changes over time, Stafford said.

IMS sells two types of products: information offerings and technology services. The information products allow pharmaceutical companies to get national snapshots of prescribing trends in more than 70 countries and data about each prescribers in 50 countries.

IMS’s prospectus offers examples of the questions companies are able to answer with its data, including which providers generate the highest return on a sales rep’s visit, whether a rep drives appropriate prescribing and how much reps should be paid.

IMS Health’s data collection and sales have been controversial.

Several years ago, three states passed laws limiting the ability of IMS and companies like it to collect data on doctors’ prescriptions and sell it to drug-makers for marketing purposes. Their intent was to protect physician and patient privacy and to reduce health care costs by reducing marketing of brand-name drugs. Once a drug loses patent protection and becomes generic, promotion essentially ceases.

IMS and other companies sued, and the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately ruled in their favor, finding a First Amendment right to collect and sell the information. (ProPublica and a group of media companies filed a legal brief supporting IMS on First Amendment grounds.)

ProPublica has sought to purchase data on each provider from IMS and some of its competitors but was told by each that it could not buy the information at any price.

Instead, reporters obtained data from Medicare on providers in its taxpayer-subsidized drug program, known as Part D, which fills more than one in every four prescriptions nationally. The data are now on Prescriber Checkup, where anyone can look up each doctor and compare their prescriptions to peers in their specialty and state.

ProPublica has found that in Part D, some of the top prescriber’s of heavily marketed drugs received speaking fees from the companies that made them.

Physicians and privacy advocates have argued that prescription records could be used to glean information about specific patients’ conditions without their permission. In addition, physicians have argued that they have a right to privacy about the way they choose drugs 2014 but aren’t asked before pharmacies sell information about them.  

Stafford said those concerns have parallels to recent revelations about mass surveillance by the National Security Agency.

“It’s part of a larger dialogue, which things like the NSA scandal have brought up,” he said. “There’s a lot of data out there that people don’t necessarily know about. … We’re living in a time where people can accept some loss of privacy, but they at least want to know how their privacy is being compromised.”

In its prospectus, IMS cited several challenges to its growth, including data-protection laws, security breaches and increased competition from other data collectors. The filing notes that the United Kingdom’s National Health Service in 2011 started releasing large volumes of data on doctor prescribing “at little or no charge, reducing the demand for our information services derived from similar data.”

Until 2010, IMS Health was a publicly traded company. At that point, it was acquired for $5.2 billion, including debt, by private-equity groups and the Canadian pension board.

Bloomberg News, citing confidential sources, reported last fall that IMS’s owners may seek to value the company at $8 billion or more.

IMS Health declined to comment for this story, citing the regulatory quiet period before the public offering takes place. No date has been set.

Follow: AceNewsServices

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“Group of Little Sister’s that Care’s for the Elderly and Poor Get Dispensation from the Federal Contraception Mandate”

#AceHealthNews Blessed Jeanne Jugan (October 25, 1792 – 1879)...

#AceHealthcareNews says according to WASHINGTON D.C., January 2 (CNA/EWTN News) .- A group of religious sisters that cares for the elderly poor in the U.S. was among several religious organizations to gain protection from the federal contraception mandate shortly before it took effect on Jan. 1.

“We are grateful for the decision of Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor granting us a temporary injunction protecting us from the HHS contraceptive mandate,” said the Little Sisters of the Poor.

On Dec. 31, just hours before the mandate was to take effect for religious non-profit groups, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor issued an emergency stay temporarily blocking the regulation’s enforcement against the religious sisters. The federal government has until 10 a.m. on Jan. 3 to reply to Justice Sotomayor’s order.

The Little Sisters of the Poor – who have provided physical, spiritual and emotional care for the elderly and dying in communities throughout the U.S. for 175 years – voiced gratitude for the decision.

“We hope and pray that we will receive a favorable outcome in order to continue to serve the elderly of all faiths with the same community support and religious freedom that we have always appreciated,” the consecrated sisters said in a Jan. 1 statement.

Justice Sotomayor’s stay applies to the Little Sisters as well as more than 200 religious groups insured by the Christian Brothers Employee Benefit Trust. It protects these groups from the demands of the federal contraception mandate, which requires employers to offer health insurance covering contraception, sterilization, and some drugs that can cause early abortions.

Employers who fail to comply with the mandate face crippling penalties.

Because the Little Sisters of the Poor are not affiliated with a particular house of worship, they do not qualify for the religious exemption to the mandate.

The federal government has argued that it has sufficiently provided for the religious freedom of the Little Sisters and other religious organizations through an “accommodation” under which the faith-based employers can pass the burden of providing the objectionable coverage to insurers, who must then offer it directly to employees without cost. Critics, however, argue that the costs of the coverage will ultimately be handed on to the employer in some way.

English: The Little Sisters of the Poor facili...

English: The Little Sisters of the Poor facility in Richmond, Virginia. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which is helping represent the Little Sisters of the Poor in their lawsuit, welcomed the news of the stay.

“We are delighted that the Supreme Court has issued this order protecting the Little Sisters,” said Mark Rienzi, senior counsel for the Becket Fund. “The government has lots of ways to deliver contraceptives to people – it doesn’t need to force nuns to participate.”

Justice Sotomayor’s decision joined more than a dozen other preliminary court orders to block the mandate. The majority of nonprofit groups that have sued over the mandate have received temporary relief.

Also on Dec. 31, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia granted last-minute injunctive relief to several Catholic colleges and organizations, including the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., and The Catholic University of America.

The Archdiocese of Washington welcomed the injunction in a statement, saying that the court’s decision is “in line with the rulings of courts all across the country” in its recognition “that the HHS mandate imposes a substantial and impermissible burden on the free exercise of religion.”

“These decisions also vindicate the pledge of the U.S. Catholic bishops to stand united in resolute defense of the first and most sacred freedom – religious liberty,” the archdiocese stated.

Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, has asked U.S. President Barack Obama to extend temporary protections from the mandate to all religious employers who object to it.

President Barack Obama and Justice Sonia Sotom...

President Barack Obama and Justice Sonia Sotomayor meet in the Oval Office prior to a reception for the new Supreme Court Justice at the White House, on Aug. 12, 2009. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In a Dec. 31 letter to the president, he noted that the government has already chosen to delay a regulation requiring employers to offer health insurance to employees. However, religious employers who do wish to “provide and fully subsidize an excellent health plan for employees,” but object to covering contraception and related products, face “crippling fines of up to $100 a day or $36,500 a year per employee.”

This position “harshly and disproportionately penalizes those seeking to offer life-affirming health coverage in accord with the teachings of their faith,” the archbishop stated. “The Administration’s flexibility in implementing the ACA has not yet reached those who want only to exercise what has rightly been called our ‘First Freedom’ under the Constitution.”

“In effect, the government seems to be telling employees that they are better off with no employer health plan at all than with a plan that does not cover contraceptives,” Archbishop Kurtz said, adding that this position is “hard to reconcile with an Act whose purpose is to bring us closer to universal coverage.”

 

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