The Corner

Judge Strikes Down Missouri Law Allowing Exemption to HHS Mandate

A federal judge has overturned a Missouri state law that would have provided a particular exemption to HHS’s preventative-services mandate to employers with religious or moral objections to contraception coverage to their employees. The law was the first state measure to directly invalidate this particular controversial provision of Obamacare.

U.S. district judge Audrey Fleissig’s ruling argued the Constitution gives federal laws precedence over state laws, but added that her ruling “was taking no position on the merits of the Obama administration policy,” which is under a number of other legal challenges. Missouri’s attorney general did not say if he would appeal the decision.

The measure required insurers to provide alternative plans that did not include birth-control coverage; Fleissig said the state’s law would put insurers at risk of violating the federal law and facing fines. Two insurers had already been issued civil penalties from Missouri’s insurance department for breaking the state law, but Fleissig put a restraining order on the law in December until the court had concluded on a ruling.

Missouri lawmakers passed the law last fall in reaction to the Obamacare provision that made no-cost contraception and sterilization treatment mandatory in insurance coverage. Democratic governor Jay Nixon vetoed the law, but Republican legislators eventually overrode him. 


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