Editor's Note: This part of a two-part package. The other part addresses the legal background of the lawsuit and previous cases.
By David Adams & Julia Oller | Echo
Taylor faces crippling fines if a federal lawsuit the university filed on Oct. 31 is unsuccessful. At more than $30 million annually, the fines would force the university to shut down, according to Vice President for Business Administration Ron Sutherland.
Taylor, Indiana Wesleyan University (IWU), the Association of Christian Schools International and Samaritan Ministries International jointly filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Labor and the Department of the Treasury.
The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) represents Taylor in the case, which is formally known as ACSI v. Burwell, and is covering all costs for the lawsuit itself, according to Sutherland.
The lawsuit seeks relief from the Affordable Care Act's (ACA's) mandate that employer health plans cover certain contraceptives, such as Plan B and ella, that Taylor believes cause abortion. Facilitating abortion violates the Life Together Covenant's Sanctity of Life statement, according to the lawsuit.
Under current rules, Taylor's health care plan is "grandfathered." Taylor is exempt from covering the objectionable drugs for the 831 individuals (including employees, retired employees and some of their dependents) on the plan as long as the university does not make significant changes to its health plan. For instance, Taylor automatically loses grandfathered status if it changes its deductible from the current amount of $760 per employee.
Taylor's plan has maintained grandfathered status since ACA's enactment on March 23, 2010.
An email sent to Taylor employees by President Eugene Habecker said Taylor needs to make changes to its plan due to increasing health care costs and new ACA regulations.
Since June 1, the start of the current plan year, Taylor is $275,000 over its health care budget. Sutherland said claims have outpaced the amount collected in premiums, but the shortfall could balance out over the remainder of the fiscal year. Total claims fluctuate between $300,000 over and $300,000 under budget from year to year, according to Sutherland.
Taylor and its co-plaintiffs allege the defendants violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the First and Fifth Amendments to the Constitution and the Administrative Procedure Act in enforcing the contraceptive mandate. The four organizations argue the mandate restricts the exercise of their religious beliefs and infringes on their due process rights. According to the lawsuit, the government did not provide adequate period for comment on ACA-required policies.
If Taylor loses the lawsuit, Sutherland said there are three options for action. The university can pay the fines and keep grandfathered status, which Sutherland said is not a viable option. Neither is dropping moral objections to the contraceptives and accepting the mandate.
Taylor could also drop its health care coverage, which creates its own consequences. The ACA requires employers to provide medical insurance. The fine for noncompliance is $2,000 per full-time employee per year, with 30 employees exempted.
The university could then grant employees a pay raise to compensate for the loss of insurance, but the money would be taxable, according to Greg Baylor, senior counsel for ADF.
Unless the Supreme Court grants religious nonprofits like Taylor exemption from the ACA mandate, the university cannot provide its employees with the best available care.
Baylor said the government has put the university in a box. Now Taylor must choose between economic benefits and its moral integrity.
"What it's costing Taylor to keep its grandfathered status is the price it's paying to protect its conscience," Baylor said.