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Geneva College v. Sebelius

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

April 19, 2013

GENEVA COLLEGE; WAYNE L. HEPLER; THE SENECA HARDWOOD LUMBER COMPANY, INC., a Pennsylvania Corporation; WLH ENTERPRISES, a Pennsylvania Sole Proprietorship of Wayne L. Hepler; and CARRIE E. KOLESAR, Plaintiff,
v.
KATHLEEN SEBELIUS in her official capacity as Secretary of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, HILDA SOLIS in her official capacity as Secretary of the United States Department of Labor, TIMOTHY GEITHNER in his official capacity as Secretary of the United States Department of the Treasury, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF LABOR, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF THE TREASURY

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For GENEVA COLLEGE, Plaintiff: Bradley S. Tupi, LEAD ATTORNEY, Tucker Arensberg, Pittsburgh, PA; David A. Cortman, LEAD ATTORNEY, Alliance Defending Freedom, Lawrenceville, GA; Erik W. Stanley, LEAD ATTORNEY, Kevin H. Theriot, Alliance Defending Freedom, Leawood, KS; Gregory S. Baylor, Steven H. Aden, LEAD ATTORNEYS, Matthew S Bowman, Alliance Defending Freedom, Washington, DC; David J. Mongillo, Tucker Arensberg, P.C., Pittsburgh, PA.

For WAYNE HEPLER, THE SENECA HARDWOOD LUMBER COMPANY, INC., a Pennsylvania Corporation, WLH ENTERPRISES, a Pennsylvania Sole Proprietorship of Wayne L. Hepler, CARRIE E. KOLESAR, Plaintiffs: Matthew S Bowman, Gregory S. Baylor, Alliance Defending Freedom, Washington, DC.

For KATHLEEN SEBELIUS, in her official capacity as Secretary of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, HILDA SOLIS, in her official capacity as Secretary of the United States Department of Labor, TIMOTHY GEITHNER, in his official capacity as Secretary of the United States Department of the Treasury, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF LABOR, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF THE TREASURY, Defendants: Bradley P. Humphreys, LEAD ATTORNEY, U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Division, Federal Programs, Washington, DC; Eric R. Womack, United States Department of Justice, Washington, DC; Michael A. Comber, United States Attorney's Office (PGH), Pittsburgh, PA.

For AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION OF PENNSYLVANIA, Amicus: Witold J. Walczak, LEAD ATTORNEY, ACLF of PA, Pittsburgh, PA; Brigitte Amiri, PRO HAC VICE, American Civil Liberties Union Foundation, New York, NY.

OPINION

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FINDINGS OF FACT AND CONCLUSIONS OF LAW

Joy Flowers Conti, United States District Judge.

Pending before the court is a Motion for Preliminary Injunction (ECF No. 75), and brief in support, (ECF No. 76), filed by plaintiffs Wayne L. Hepler (" Hepler" ) (individually and on behalf of WLH Enterprises (" WLH" )), Carrie E. Kolesar (" Kolesar" ), and Seneca Hardwood Lumber Company, Inc. (" SLHC" ), (collectively, " plaintiffs" ), and the response in opposition, (ECF No. 78), filed by defendants Kathleen Sebelius, Hilda Solis, Timothy Geithner, the United States Department of Health and Human Services (" HHS" ), the United States Department of Labor, and the United States Department of the Treasury (collectively, " defendants" ).

Plaintiffs seek an order protecting them from complying with the requirement that they include coverage for certain services as part of the health insurance that they provide to themselves, their employees, and their families in the plan year that begins on July 1, 2013. Plaintiffs object to the requirement in the new health care law mandating that they provide coverage for abortifacient products and contraceptives such as ella, Plan B, and intrauterine devices (" IUDs" ), as well as sterilization procedures and patient education and counseling for women of reproductive capacity (the " objected to services" ). For purposes of the present motion, plaintiffs argue that the law requiring them to provide the objected to services, 42 U.S.C. § 300gg-13(a)(4) (referred to generally as the " mandate" ), violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, 42 U.S.C. § 2000bb-1 (the " RFRA" ), and the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment.

On March 6, 2013, the court issued a Memorandum Opinion and Order (ECF No. 74), in which it granted in part and denied in part defendants' motion to dismiss plaintiffs' amended complaint. In pertinent part, the court granted the motion to dismiss with respect to plaintiff Geneva College and denied the motion to dismiss with respect to, among other claims, plaintiffs' claims pursuant to the RFRA and the Free Exercise Clause. The parties advised the court that they wish to proceed on the submissions that were filed, and agreed to forego a preliminary injunction hearing. To that end, the matter is ripe for disposition, and the court makes the following findings of fact and conclusions of law.

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I. FINDINGS OF FACT[1]

Hepler and his family (which includes Kolesar) (collectively the " Heplers" ), are practicing Catholics who strive to follow Catholic beliefs and teachings in all areas of their lives, including the operation of their businesses. (ECF No. 32 ¶ ¶ 75-77.) The Heplers have pursued this goal by building a chapel on their business premises, displaying religious imagery in their business, making charitable donations to Catholic causes, and providing health insurance to their families and Catholic employees consistent with their beliefs. (Id. ¶ ¶ 82-85.) The Heplers participate extensively in both Catholic and pro-life activities. (Id. ¶ ¶ 86-88.) Hepler and his thirteen children are committed to the Catholic church's teachings on human life and sexuality, including the church's position against abortifacients, contraceptives, and sterilization. (Id. ¶ 88.)

SHLC is owned and directed by Hepler, Kolesar, and Kolesar's six adult siblings. (Id. ¶ 89.) Hepler owns a 58% share of SHLC and Kolesar and her six adult siblings each own a 6% share. (Id.) SHLC has twenty-two full-time employees, nineteen of whom (including Hepler and Kolesar's husband) are covered by the company's health insurance plan. (Id. ¶ 90.) Hepler also owns and operates a sawmill as the sole proprietorship WLH, which has six full-time employees, five of whom are covered under SHLC's health insurance plan. (Id. ¶ 91.)

The Heplers' sincerely held religious beliefs prohibit them from intentionally participating in, paying for, facilitating, or otherwise supporting the use of abortifacient drugs, contraception, sterilization, and related education and counseling through the health insurance coverage that SHLC provides their families and employees. (Id. ¶ ¶ 77-82.) The SHLC health insurance plan is currently in its July 2012 plan year, and will begin its next plan year on July 1, 2013. (Id. ¶ 98.) SHLC's health insurance plan does not have grandfathered status. [2] (Id. ¶ 97.) Pursuant to the Heplers' stated beliefs, SHLC's health insurance plan currently does not cover abortifacients, contraceptives and sterilization, and has not done so for several years. (Id. ¶ ¶ 94-99.) Plaintiffs object to defendants' requirement that SHLC's nongrandfathered health plan provide coverage for the objected to services because it will force them to purchase a health plan that offers coverage for those services beginning in July 2013. (Id. ¶ 100.)

Plaintiffs must begin arranging and contracting for their 2013-2014 health insurance

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plan prior to the beginning of the plan year on July 1, 2013. (Id. ¶ 98)

II. CONCLUSIONS OF LAW

A. The Relevant Statutes and Regulations Concerning the Objected to Services

1. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010

On March 23, 2010, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, Pub. L. No. 111-148, 124 Stat. 119 (Mar. 23, 2010) (" ACA" ) became law and an overhaul of the nation's healthcare system began. Section 1001 of the ACA includes specific measures related to preventive care for women, and provides in part:

(a) In general
A group health plan and a health insurance issuer offering group or individual health insurance coverage shall, at a minimum provide coverage for and shall not impose any cost sharing requirements for--
* * *
(4) with respect to women, such additional preventive care and screenings not described in paragraph (1) as provided for in comprehensive guidelines supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration [" HRSA" ] for purposes of this paragraph.

42 U.S.C. § 300gg-13 (the " preventive care provision" ). Because the ACA did not specifically identify which preventive care services would have to be provided without cost sharing, further rulemaking was necessary.

2. Preventive Care Services and Interim Final Regulations

On July 19, 2010, defendants (the Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor, and Treasury) issued interim final regulations implementing the preventive care provision. Interim Final Rules for Group Health Plans and Health Insurance Issuers Relating to Coverage of Preventive Services Under the ACA, (the " first interim final regulations" ), 75 Fed. Reg. 41,726 (Jul. 19, 2010). The first interim final regulations require all group health plans and health insurance issuers offering nongrandfathered [3] group or individual health coverage to cover, without cost sharing, the preventive care services outlined in 42 U.S.C. § 300gg-13. Id. at 41,728. The first interim final regulations directed the Department of Health and Human Services, in conjunction with the Institute of Medicine (" IOM" ), to determine what preventive services are necessary and beneficial for women's health and well-being. Id. The IOM was to report its findings to the Health Resources and Services Administration (" HRSA" ), which was to issue the necessary guidelines. The report issued by the IOM [4] on July 19, 2011, recommended that the HRSA guidelines include, inter alia : " [t]he full range of Food and

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Drug Administration [(" FDA" )]-approved contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures, and patient education and counseling for women with reproductive capacity." IOM Report at 10. FDA-approved contraceptive methods include the objected to services, such as the drugs ella and Plan B, as well as IUDs.

3. HRSA Guidelines

On August 1, 2011, HRSA adopted guidelines pursuant to the IOM recommendations [5] and on August 3, 2011, again issued interim final regulations (the " second interim final regulations" ). Group Health Plans and Health Insurance Issuers Relating to Coverage of Preventive Services Under the ACA, 76 Fed. Reg. 46,621 (Aug. 3, 2011). The second interim final regulations carve out an exemption allowing certain religious employers to avoid providing insurance coverage for the objected to services. 76 Fed. Reg. at 46,626 (codified at 45 C.F.R. § 147.130(a)(1)(iv)(B)). The exemption defines religious organizations as those employers that meet the following criteria:

(1) The inculcation of religious values is the purpose of the organization;
(2) The organization primarily employs persons who share the religious tenets ...

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