May 22, 2019
LANSING - Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel and 22 other state and local governments sued the Trump Administration for its rule that allows any health care provider to refuse necessary, and often critical, health care services that conflict with their “religious beliefs or moral convictions.” The federal lawsuit, filed yesterday, seeks to block the rule from going into effect July 2019.
The lawsuit alleges the rule undermines the delivery of health care services by allowing any health care worker – including ambulance drivers, emergency room doctors, receptionists, and insurance customer service representatives – the right to refuse care.
“This display of contempt for the doctrine of separation between church and state is alarming and terrifying,” said Nessel. “According to our federal government, healthcare providers, from doctors to clerical staff, can decide who deserves medical care ranging from the most routine check-ups to lifesaving medical treatment – all based upon the purported religious beliefs of the provider. Healthcare treatment should be dictated by approved medical standards and a patient’s decisions about the type of care he or she wishes to receive, not the religious or personal beliefs of those who hold themselves out as medical professionals. The imposition of this rule catapults our nation one step further toward America devolving into a virtual theocracy.”
Under the rule, a hospital could not even inquire if a nursing applicant objected to administering a measles vaccination – although it could be a core duty of the job in the middle of a measles outbreak. Additionally, the rule would allow an emergency room doctor to refuse to treat a woman who arrived with a ruptured ectopic pregnancy – even if the woman’s life was in jeopardy. Under the rule, businesses could refuse to provide insurance coverage for procedures they consider objectionable, and individual health care workers – including clerical staff – could object to informing patients about their medical options or referring them to providers of those options.
Under the rule, failure to comply would terminate billions of dollars in federal health care funding to state and local governments. The Department of Health and Human Services would have sole discretion to determine if states or cities have failed to comply with the rule – through their own actions or the actions of thousands of sub-contractors relied upon to deliver health services – and terminate funding to those states and cities. Funds at risk include Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, along with countless programs to promote public health including HIV/AIDS and STD prevention and education, and substance abuse and mental health treatment.
Also joining the lawsuit are the states of Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawai‘i, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Wisconsin, the cities of New York and Chicago, and Cook County, Illinois.