HHS Rule Would Expand Ability of Businesses and Individuals to Refuse to Provide Necessary Health Care on the Basis of Religious, Moral, Ethical, or Other Beliefs
News Release, Office of Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh
BALTIMORE, MD (June 14, 2019)– Maryland Attorney GeneralBrian E. Frosh joined a coalition of 23 cities, states, and municipalities inamotionfiled todayto seek a preliminary injunction to stop the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) from implementing a Final Rule that would expand the ability of businesses and individuals to refuse to provide necessary health care on the basis of businesses’ or employees’ “religious beliefs or moral convictions.”
The motion is supported by declarations from 48leading public health professionals from across the country. The samecoalition of 23 cities and statesfiled alawsuitagainst HHS in May 2019 to challenge this discriminatory rule.
“This rule would obstruct Marylanders’ ability to obtain the healthcare they need and deserve, and, in so doing, would create havoc in the delivery of health care. It would put lives and health at risk in Maryland and across the country,” said Attorney General Frosh.
The preliminary injunction seeks to stop the Final Rule from taking effect in July 2019, arguing that it would undermine the delivery of health care by giving a wide range of health care institutions and individuals a right to refuse care, based on thehealthprovider’s own personal views.
The Final Rule makes this right of refusal absolute and categorical, and no matter what reasonable steps a health provider or employer makes to accommodate the views of an objecting individual, if that individual rejects a proposed accommodation, a provider or employer is left with no recourse. For example, an emergency room doctor could refuse to assist a woman with a ruptured ectopic pregnancy, even if the woman’s life was in jeopardy.
The Final Rule significantly expands thetypesof providers eligible to make these refusals, ranging from medical transport providers to emergency room doctors, receptionists, customer service representatives at insurance companies, and more. Additionally, under theFinalRule, a hospital could not inquire of a prospective employee whether they objected to conducting a certain procedure, even if the procedure is a core duty of their job.
The lawsuitfiled by the coalitionalleges that the risk of noncompliance is the termination of hundreds billions of dollars in federal health care funding that states andlocalitiesrely on for countless programs to promote the public health of their residents. The lawsuit argues that this drastic expansion of refusal rights, and the draconian threat of termination of federal funds, violates the federal Administrative Procedures Act and the Spending Clause and separation of powers principles in the U.S. Constitution.
In addition to Maryland, the preliminary injunction was filed by Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Wisconsin, the City of New York, the City of Chicago, and Cook County, Illinois.