Madison County business owners sue over Affordable Care Act; Kortes say 'morning after pill' provision violates religious values

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The owners of a Highland company have sued a trio of federal agencies over the Affordable Care Act (ACA), claiming that certain regulations violate their religious and moral values.

Cyril and Jane Korte, owners of Korte & Luitjohan Contractors, filed their complaint Tuesday in federal court against the labor, treasury and health and human services departments, as well as the three agency heads.

The Kortes' suit focuses on the act's "final rule," which mandates that employee health benefit plans include coverage for "all Food and Drug Administration-approved contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures and patient education and counseling for women with reproductive capacity" in plan years that begin on or after Aug. 1.

Complying with the mandate would require the Kortes to violate their religious beliefs because it requires them to pay for, provide or otherwise support contraception, sterilization and abortion, the suit states, specifically noting the "morning-after pill."

The Kortes "are adherents of the Catholic faith" and "wish to conduct business in a manner that does not violate their religious faith," the suit asserts.

They employ about 90 full-time employees, about 70 of whom belong to and receive health insurance coverage from unions. The other 20 non-union employees receive coverage under a group plan provided by the Kortes' company, according to their complaint.

Under the ACA, employers with more than 50 full-time employees must provide health insurance to their employees or face a penalty for not doing so.

"Plaintiffs are confronted with choosing between complying with the mandate's requirements in violation of their religious beliefs or paying ruinous fines that would have a crippling impact on their ability to survive economically," the complaint contends.

The Kortes, however, acknowledge in their complaint that their company's current group plan includes coverage for contraceptives, sterilization and abortion. They discovered this in August and claim it "is an error that is contrary to what plaintiffs want based on their religious beliefs."

Plans in existence at the time the ACA was enacted in 2010 that did not include coverage for contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures and patient education and counseling on these matters are considered "grandfathered" plans under the act and do not have to comply with the mandate, the suit states.

The Kortes claim that they want to renew their health insurance coverage for their non-union employees, but would like to exclude contraceptive-related coverage.

According to the complaint, the company is looking into ways to obtain employee health insurance coverage that complies with its ethical guidelines and the Kortes' Catholic faith.

The Kortes' suit wants the federal court to enter injunctions that would prevent the defendants from enforcing the ACA's "final rule" against them and others who have religious objections to the law's health insurance mandate.

The renewal date of their company's plan is in January 2013 and because it takes at least 60 days to change or modify group health care plans, the Kortes asked the court to rule on their request for an injunction before Dec. 7.

Edward White III of the American Center for Law & Justice in Michigan submitted the complaint on the Kortes' behalf.

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