By Adam Rubenfire, Crain News Service
CHARLESTON, W. Va. (July 26, 2013) — Joe Holland, owner of Joe Mr. Holland Chevrolet in Charleston last month attracted national publicity for challenging new federal laws requiring his company to provide insurance coverage for contraceptives taken after sex.
But his legal team recently discovered a problem: Mr. Holland's insurer has already been covering the drugs as a part of the health benefits he offers to his car dealership's employees.
Mr. Holland's federal lawsuit against the government in June contended that the Affordable Care Act interfered with his religious beliefs.
Jeremiah Dys, president and general counsel of the Family Policy Council of West Virginia and a member of Mr. Holland's legal team, said Mr. Holland and his lawyers had looked through his insurance plan, but apparently missed the contraceptive coverage.
"We thought we had seen everything, and then some new information came to our attention," Mr. Dys said.
Mr. Holland, who declined an interview request from Automotive News, said he is opposed to the use of contraceptives that could destroy a developing human embryo because it violates his religious beliefs as a born-again Christian. Many other employers have filed similar lawsuits against the Obama administration, citing religious objections to the Affordable Care Act.
But because he already provides coverage for the drugs, Mr. Holland's lawyers can no longer ask for a temporary stop to the drug mandate. Instead, Mr. Dys said they will continue to ask the court to call for a permanent injunction against the mandate, and will file an amended lawsuit later this week.
Companies that have fewer than 50 full-time equivalent employees are exempt from the coverage mandate. With 150 employees working at his auto dealership—which also sells Hyundai and Volkswagen vehicles—Mr. Holland doesn't fall under that category. But Mr. Dys said Mr. Holland isn't entirely opposed to providing insurance coverage to his employees—he just wants to have control over the coverage he offers.
Mr. Holland contracted with his insurer with the understanding that he would be made aware if he was offering the controversial drugs, Mr. Dys said. Instead, he found out that the insurer covers all forms of FDA-approved contraceptives.
"The FDA takes a very different perspective as to when pregnancy starts compared to Mr. Holland," Mr. Dys said.
Mr. Dys stressed that the insurance plan does not cover abortions—something that Mr. Holland made sure to clear with the provider when purchasing the plan.
Mr. Holland isn't happy that his insurer covers the drugs, but he doesn't have much of a choice. Mr. Dys said the dealer wasn't able to find an insurer that allowed employers to be selective in what types of contraceptives they cover.
According to the Food and Drug Administration, emergency contraceptives work mainly by stopping the release of an egg from a woman's ovary. They may also work by preventing fertilization of an egg or by preventing attachment to the womb. A common emergency contraceptive, sold as Plan B, does not stop pregnancy when a woman is already pregnant and there is no medical evidence that the product will harm a developing fetus, the agency said.
This report appeared on the website of Automotive News, a Detroit-based sister publication of Tire Business.