After the Obama administration issued a rule that insurance companies are required to provide a rider that covers contraception in all health insurance policies, even if the group policy taken out by private companies does not include it, many states tried to pass laws overriding that requirement. A federal judge has struck down one such law in Missouri, saying that federal law takes precedence.
A federal judge has struck down a Missouri law exempting moral objectors from mandatory birth control coverage because it conflicts with an insurance requirement under President Barrack Obama’s health care law.
The ruling by U.S. District Judge Audrey Fleissig cites a provision in the U.S. Constitution declaring that federal laws take precedence over contradictory state laws. But Fleissig emphasized that she was taking no position on the merits of the Obama administration policy, which requires insurers to cover contraception at no additional cost to women…
The Missouri law requires insurers to issue policies without contraception coverage if individuals or employers assert that the use of birth control violates their “moral, ethical or religious beliefs.” The state’s Republican-led Legislature overrode the veto of Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon last September to enact the law, which appeared to be the first in the nation to directly rebut the Obama administration’s contraception policy…
In her ruling, Fleissig wrote that the state law “is in conflict with, and pre-empted by, existing federal law” and “could force health insurers to risk fines and penalties by choosing between compliance with state or federal law.”
The judge noted that the federal law includes penalties of $100 per day per employee and an annual tax surcharge of $2,000 per employee for violations of its provisions. The state insurance department already issued orders seeking civil penalties against two insurers for not offering plans excluding contraception coverage as required by the Missouri law.
The ruling “clears up what law they have to write the policies under, and that’s all we were asking,” said Brent Butler, the government affairs director for the Missouri Insurance Coalition, an industry trade group that was one of the plaintiffs.
This is a rather obvious ruling. If federal penalizes an insurance company for not including contraception coverage but state law penalizes them for including it, those companies face an impossible choice. But since this is undeniably a matter of interstate commerce, Congress has constitutional authority and the Supremacy Clause overrides conflicting state laws.