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A Christian college in eastern Pennsylvania has filed suit in federal court, fighting the  Affordable Care Act’s requirement that it provide access to a third-party administrator, which could offer services including the “Plan B” morning-after pill to their employees, according to The Mercury News.

Valley Forge Christian College, located in Phoenixville, filed the suit stating that it objected to being compelled to participate, “indirectly with, or transferring any legal or moral authority by which a third party might enable the provision of such services to the employees of Valley Forge Christian College.”

The college’s objection stems from the “accommodation” provision of the ACA, which allows non-profits to opt out of providing contraceptives by employing a third-party administrator or insurer.

According to the lawsuit, “Valley Forge Christian College has no objection to providing coverage for contraceptive drugs which truly — and only — prevent conception and do not interfere with the continued survival of a human embryo.”

At issue for the small college affiliated with the conservative Assemblies of God, is what it considers “abortion-related drugs and procedures,” including Plan B.

The claims are similar to ones  made in the recent Supreme Court Hobby Lobby decision, where the plaintiffs called Plan B an “abortion-causing drug.”

Critics have pointed out that Plan B is not an abortifacient, citing the FDA’s description: “Plan B One-Step will not stop a pregnancy when a woman is already pregnant and there is no medical evidence that the product will harm a developing fetus.”

With the lawsuit, Valley Forge is using the same argument used in Hobby Lobby: their belief that the drug is used for abortions.

Should Valley Forge fail to provide access to a third party administrator it would face fines of $100 per day per beneficiary under provisions of the Affordable Care Act.

“In its recent ‘Hobby Lobby’ decision, the Supreme Court of the United States made clear that citizens cannot be forced to choose between violating their faith and being punished by the government for following their faith,” explained Jeff Mateer, general counsel for Liberty Institute, which filed the suit along with a local law firm.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, named in the suit, referred all questions to the U.S. Department of Justice, which has yet to respond to the Friday filing.

h/t: Tom Boggioni at The Raw Story

crooksandliars:

Fox News Runs Hour-Long Free Campaign Ad For Scott Brown

Have you noticed that Obamacare hasn’t been the big campaign boost wingers were hoping for? Like it or not, it’s not 2010 all over again, at least not with Obamacare leading their wave midterms.

It turns out people actually like Obamacare as long as you don’t call it that. Don’t call it the Affordable Care Act, either. But if you ask them about whether they like getting health insurance at subsidized rates, you get overwhelming approval. Ask them about whether they’re glad there are no more pre-existing conditions exclusions and they like that too.

That sad fact of life means Scott Brown’s entire reason for running for office in New Hampshire is a solid bust. Polling has him way behind Jeanne Shaheen, Tea Party groups aren’t really active in New Hampshire, and he’s on his way to remaining a former Senator from Massachusetts.

But wait! There’s a knight in shining armor out there. Roger Ailes, realizing Brown is probably doomed, called for an hour-long special on Obamacare, featuring…New Hampshire! No mere coincidence, that.

Fox News basically handed Scott Brown an hour-long free TV ad, not to mention all the promos their hosts had to do pimping the special.

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(via iammyfather)

thepoliticalfreakshow:

This won’t surprise anyone who’s been following Obamacare’s latest legal battle, but the case just got one step closer to the US Supreme Court. Again.

The most recent legal challenge centers on the subsidies available to people newly insured on state insurance exchanges. The plaintiffs argue that, based on the plain text of the law, Congress only authorized subsidies for state-established exchanges and that subsidies shouldn’t be available in the 36 states with federal exchanges. The federal government vehemently disagrees.

The plaintiffs in King v. Burwellthe case that was decided by the Fourth Circuit earlier this month, have asked the Supreme Court to hear their case, CNBC reports. The Fourth Circuit ruling went in favor of the government; the unanimous opinion said that subsidies should be available to residents of all states, based on their best reading of the law.

It’s not clear whether the high court will take up the case. Four justices have to agree to hear it, and they may wish to wait until Halbig, a related case, has fully played out.

Unlike King, the government lost in Halbig. There, the three-person panel of DC Circuit judges held that subsidies are illegal in the 36 states where the federal government runs health insurance exchanges. But the government plans to ask the entire DC Circuit — eleven judges in total — to review the decision “en banc”. Because the full DC Circuit skews liberal, observers expect that the Halbig decision will be reversed during en banc review. That probably won’t happen until early fall.

The King plaintiffs decided to skip an en banc petition.

The justices may wish to wait until Halbig’s en banc review has been resolved before taking up one of the subsidy challenges. If they wait, that could push the timeline on a Supreme Court hearing back by a full year.

Alternatively, the Supreme Court could decide not to hear any of these challenges.

The Court will decide sometime this fall whether or not to hear King. If they do decide to hear the case, oral arguments would happen this winter and a final ruling would be expected sometime next spring.

The petition to the Supreme Court can be read here. For our complete coverage of these lawsuits, click here.

Source: Adrianna McIntyre for Vox

During the Tuesday night broadcast of The Rachel Maddow Show, host Rachel Maddow ended the show by discussing Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant and his recent comments regarding his state’s high uninsured rate. A recent survey revealed that Mississippi is the only state to have seen its uninsured rate increase since the full implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Overall, the country has seen a significant decrease in the number of uninsured people. However, Mississippi’s uninsured rate has climbed to 21.46%. Only Texas currently has a higher uninsured rate than Mississippi.

When presented with these results, Bryant decided that President Barack Obama and the ACA were to blame.

“If statistics show that the ill-conceived and so-called Affordable Care Act is resulting in higher rates of uninsured people in Mississippi, I’d say that’s yet another example of a broken promise from Barack Obama.”

Maddow highlighted Bryant’s refusal to work with any of the provisions of the ACA that would have helped bring health coverage to more Mississippians. The governor refused to assist in creating a state exchange even though his own state’s health commissioner, a Republican, had a well-designed exchange ready to be put in place. Due to Bryant’s intransigence, the HHS and other federal agencies were unable to work with the state exchange, and only two health insurance companies were willing to be placed on it. The governor also refused to expand Medicaid, which would have provided coverage to over 300,000 residents of his state. Instead, Bryant said that people have free coverage — the emergency room.

Rachel decided to use a visual metaphor to illustrate the effects of Bryant’s obstruction when it comes to Obamacare. The host brought out a model of a Lamborghini. The remote control car worked perfectly and she was able to drive it around the studio. After driving it around, she bashed it several times with a hammer. After causing severe damage to the car, she tried to drive it around again. Of course, it went nowhere. In mock outrage, Maddow kicked the car, called it a piece of junk and said nobody should get this car because it doesn’t work.

Below is video of the segment, courtesy of MSNBC:

In a short four-minute segment, Rachel Maddow destroyed Bryant’s declaration that the ACA is to blame for Mississippi’s high uninsured rate. The fact remains that red state Republican governors like Bryant and Texas’ Rick Perry have done everything in their power to ensure that the health care law is a failure in their state. However, when presented with the aftereffects of their obstruction, they turn tail and blame Obama or Democrats for the negative impact of their actions. Republicans take a jackhammer to Obamacare in their states and then call it a piece of junk when it doesn’t work as promised.

h/t: Justin Baragona at PoliticusUSA

crooksandliars:

Boehner's Lawsuit Turning Into Messaging Goldmine For Dems

Now this is more like it. House Democrats aren’t sitting idly by while John Boehner tries to assuage his angry right wing with a lawsuit instead of impeachment. No, they’re making Republicans pay for their folly by forcing votes that make them look like rubes and fools.

Steve Benen:

Democrats asked for a provision that would require Republicans to regularly disclose how much this lawsuit was costing American taxpayers. Republicans said no.

Democrats asked for a conflict-of-interest measure that would prevent lawmakers from hiring lawyers for this case who lobby Congress. Republicans said no.

Democrats asked for a separate conflict-of-interest amendment that would stop Congress from hiring a law firm for this case that has a financial stake in the implementation of the ACA. Republicans said no.

Democrats asked for a disclosure requirement that said congressional contracts with outside counsel would be disclosed before they’re approved. Republicans said no.

Democrats asked for a measure that would require Republicans to explain where the public funds will come from that will pay for the lawsuit. Republicans said no.

There were 11 proposed improvements in all, Each were defeated with zero Republican votes.

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See Also: Justin’s Political Corner: Michele Bachmann on OCU’s Faith and Liberty: Gays Want To Let Adults ‘Freely Prey On Little Children Sexually’ 


H/T: Brian Tashman at RWW

h/t: Michael McAuliff at HuffPost Politics

H/T: Jean Ann Esselink at The New Civil Rights Movement

h/t: Sahil Kapur at TPM

h/t: Ian Millhiser at Think Progress Justice

Mitch McConnell: say one thing, do another. Let’s send him packing in November at the ballot box by replacing him with Alison Lundergan Grimes. 

H/T: Sahil Kapur at TPM

Much to the chagrin of women’s rights advocates, Hobby Lobby has won its legal battle — but claims of “victory” for religious freedom must be emended. Make no mistake: This is no victory for the freedom to exercise Christian principles. Though employers like Hobby Lobby are now free to deny women access to contraceptives through their employer-subsidized health plans on the basis of religious objection, they will be violating their own purported Christian principles if they do. While Christians are not compelled by their faith to engage in religious practices that impose upon the freedoms of others, they are compelled — by their belief that all persons, men and women, are created in the image of God — to oppose discrimination.

Employers are now free to deny women access to contraceptives through their employer-subsidized health plans, though they will be violating their own purported Christian principles if they do.

Some corporations that have objected to the contraceptive requirements of the Affordable Care Act, like Hobby Lobby, claim that they do not wish to discriminate against women by denying them access to contraceptives generally, and that their opposition is merely to abortion. However, their understanding of which medications act as abortifacients rests on an outdated understanding of medical science and is at odds with the facts of the matter. Use of these contraceptive methods is not tantamount to abortion, and moreover, providing women with access to safe, reliable contraceptives for free drastically reduces the actual abortion rate.

It is likely that women will ultimately retain coverage, anyhow, though religious employers are now able to legally withhold it. The Supreme Court assumed in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby that the government has a compelling interest in ensuring that women have full access to preventive care. It appears that a majority of the court believes that this interest is compelling. The issue still under real legal dispute is how that coverage will be provided.

One suggestion is that the Obama administration extend to closely held, for-profit corporations the same accommodation already in place for religiously affiliated nonprofits. If a corporation objects, on religious grounds, to covering contraceptives in its health plan, it can fill out a two-page form, with five questions (two of which are providing a signature and the date), self-certifying that it meets the requirements for religious accommodation. By submitting this form, employees will be provided contraceptive coverage directly from their insurance company rather than through their employer.

This very exemption, however, currently faces its own legal threat from some Christian religious organizations, which claim that notifying the government of their objections to contraceptive use is itself religiously objectionable, as doing so will “trigger” the provision of coverage by a third party. The University of Notre Dame and Wheaton College are among several institutions that have brought such challenges. There is very little sense to be made of claims that your freedom of religion is substantially burdened by someone else’s providing services that you do not want to provide yourself. This suggests that the legal challenges are not merely aimed at allowing corporations to abstain from facilitating behavior they deem immoral but instead are seeking to effectively prevent women from engaging in that “immoral” behavior by keeping financial barriers for women, and administrative barriers for the government, in place.

This is economic coercion. Opponents to the contraceptive mandate have insisted that women remain free to purchase whatever health care services they choose, but this is woefully insensitive to the reality that low-income women and families face. For these women, there is a very large difference between what is available to them for purchase in principle and in effect. It is easy for those who do not regularly face desperate decisions due to financial insecurity or medical complexities to forget the difference. An intrauterine device, for example, can cost a low-income full-time worker more than a month’s wages. For some women, this is both the safest and most effective medical option, yet hopelessly unaffordable.

This kind of economic coercion is distinctly at odds with Christian principles. There is only one incident described in the Christian scriptures where Jesus is represented as employing coercive force, and it was not used to prevent people from engaging in sin. It was used, instead, to prevent people from dishonoring God by exploiting religious practice for personal gain. The gospels describe Jesus’ reaction to those who sought to profit from the Passover pilgrimage to the temple as fierce: “And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, ‘Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.’” This is where corporations that claim their operations constitute religious practice of the Christian faith ought to take note.

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Read previous contributions to this series.

Hobby Lobby offered coverage for some of the contraceptives it now claims its religious faith forbids it to have any association with, until shortly after the Becket Fund for Religious Freedom asked it if it would be interested in filing suit. The company continues to profit from investments in the manufacturers of the “objectionable” contraceptives through the 401(k) plan it offers its employees. Recently, Hobby Lobby has faced legal trouble for false advertising. It has built a fortune, in large part, by selling goods manufactured in China, infamous for its poor labor conditions and related human rights violations. These are the practices of a corporation that will emphasize the Christian faith of its owners when convenient and profitable, but set that faith aside when it would be costly to do otherwise.

Hobby Lobby is not the only corporation which has objected to the law through what seems to be quite selective applications of Christian principle. Offering health care coverage as called for by the Affordable Care Act is morally permissible according to the Catholic philosophical tradition, and the sincerity of institutions like the University of Notre Dame is questionable.

The more pressing question religious corporations should ask themselves is whether denying women comprehensive health care while providing it to men, and so failing to respect women’s inherent dignity and equality, is consistent with their religious values. Since the Supreme Court focused on the practical effects at stake (that is, whether women would be able to obtain coverage elsewhere, and thus by a less restrictive means) rather than on the expressive function of the law, Hobby Lobby is now free to discriminate in its provision of health care. But the question remains, why would it want to?

H/T: Kathyrn Pogin at The New York Times' Opinionator Blogs

Holly Hobby Lobby Caught in More Lies, Her Son’s “Award-Winning” Cardiologist Isn’t Even Certified

h/t: Sahil Kapur at TPM