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Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul
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June 17, 2019


HHS Final Rule Would Expand Ability of Hospitals, Businesses, and Individuals to Refuse to Provide Necessary Health Care

Chicago — Attorney General Kwame Raoul, along with a coalition of 23 cities, states, and municipalities, filed a motion to seek a preliminary injunction to stop the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) from adopting a Final Rule that would expand the ability of hospitals, businesses, and individuals to refuse to provide necessary health care on the basis of businesses’ or employees’ “religious beliefs or moral convictions.”

“We must not tolerate discrimination of any kind, particularly when it deprives people of important health care services,” Raoul said. “I am proud to stand with my fellow attorneys general to defend in court patients’ right to make their own health care decisions in consultation with their providers.”

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 the health provider’s own personal views. The Rule drastically expands the types of providers eligible to make such refusals, ranging from ambulance drivers to emergency room doctors to receptionists to customer service representatives at insurance companies. The Rule makes this right 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 at risk of noncompliance with the Final Rule.

Under the Rule, a hospital could not inquire, prior to hiring a nurse, whether he or she objected to administering a measles vaccination – even if this was a core duty of the job in the middle of an outbreak of the disease. Or an emergency room doctor could refuse to assist a woman who arrived with a ruptured ectopic pregnancy, even if the woman’s life was in jeopardy.

Raoul and the coalition filed a lawsuit against HHS in May 2019 to challenge this rule. The lawsuit further alleges that the risk of noncompliance is the termination of billions of dollars in federal health care funding. If HHS determines, in its sole discretion, that states or localities have failed to comply with the Final Rule – through their own actions or the actions of thousands of sub-contractors relied upon to deliver health services – the federal government could terminate funding to those states and localities, to the price tag of hundreds of billions of dollars. States and localities rely upon those funds for countless programs to promote the public health of their residents, including Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, HIV/AIDS and STD prevention and education, and substance abuse and mental health treatment.

Raoul and the coalition argue 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.

Joining Raoul in filing the lawsuit are the attorneys general of Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Wisconsin, as well as Chicago, New York City, and Cook County, Ill.


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