The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Editorials

January 10, 2014

Obamacare is a cash cow for lawyers

CNHI says:

With the success of the Affordable Care Act — better known as Obamacare — anything but certain, it has become apparent that one class of Americans will benefit greatly.

Lawyers.

With lawsuits abounding from Republican state attorneys general, businesses, school districts and religious groups, among others, billings at some of the most prominent law firms in the country are likely to be substantial, indeed.

One suit, in particular, stood out last week. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor blocked the implementation of some of the health care law that would have made some religious organizations provide birth control to employees.

The request for a temporary stay until the case could be heard by the full court was made by the Little Sisters of the Poor’s Mullen Home for the Aged, a Denver nursing home run by an order of Catholic nuns that serves about 100 low-income senior citizens.

The case is fascinating on several levels. For one thing, Sotomayor was appointed by President Barack Obama and is regarded as one of the court’s liberals. She was part of the 5-4 majority that upheld Obamacare in 2012.

But, Harvard Law School professor Alan Dershowitz noted, Sotomayor is Catholic.

“The lawyers picked a brilliant, brilliant case to bring in front of Justice Sotomayor ... What could be more sympathetic to anybody, whether you’re Catholic or not Catholic?” Dershowitz said Thursday on “The Steve Malzberg Show” on Newsmax TV.

“Justice Sotomayor grew up basically in the shadow of that kind of teaching — and these are nuns, who say they can’t violate their own religious principles,” Dershowitz said, adding that it won’t be easy to predict what a Supreme Court with no Protestants, six Catholics and three Jews might decide.

While the anti-health care law side is rejoicing at the temporary partial reprieve for religious groups, the Obama administration insisted it’s an unnecessary waste of the court’s time.

U.S. District Judge William J. Martínez ruled that the Little Sisters group was exempt from the contraception mandate. It just needed to submit a form to avoid any health care law-related fines.

“With the stroke of their own pen, applicants can secure for themselves the relief they seek from this Court — an exemption from the requirements of the contraceptive-coverage provision — and the employer-applicants’ employees (and their family members) will not receive contraceptive coverage through the plan’s third-party administrator, either,” Solicitor General Donald Verrilli wrote in a motion to the Supreme Court.

Just having to fill out one form doesn’t seem to us an unreasonable burden or violation of religious liberty.

But then, we’re not lawyers … or Supreme Court justices. It will be interesting to see how it all shakes out.

— The Daily Star, Oneonta, N.Y.

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