Autocam suit over contraceptive coverage for employees to be heard again

Automotive supplier Autocam Corp.’s lawsuit seeking an exemption from an Affordable Care Act mandate that requires birth control coverage will be revisited by the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, according to a U.S. Supreme Court decision issued on Monday.

The order follows the Supreme Court’s decision in late June to exempt arts and crafts retailer Hobby Lobby from provisions of the federal health care act that include contraception and related drugs on the grounds of religious freedom.

The Autocam case, originally filed in October 2012, claims that the health care law, enacted in March 2010, “force[s] the Plaintiffs to pay for and facilitate access to drugs and services which the Plaintiffs believe to be intrinsically wrong and gravely sinful in light of their sincerely held religious convictions,” according to the suit.

The 2010 health care act was amended in February 2012 to include contraceptive devices and drugs.

The filing said the inclusion of contraceptive devices and emergency contraceptive drugs such as Plan B and Ella in the “preventive care” mandate violates the company’s religious values, and asks for Autocam and other religious businesses to be exempted from the mandate.

Autocam, based in Grand Rapids, Mich., supplies fuel systems, engines and transmissions, power steering and electric motors to automakers worldwide. It has more than 2,100 employees worldwide, including about 660 in the United States.

The supplier’s CEO, John Kennedy, is a Roman Catholic and lost the initial case in the U.S. District Court as well as a subsequent appeal to the Sixth Circuit. He then filed an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court in October 2013.

While the Supreme Court decided not to hear Kennedy’s case, it did review a similar case filed by Hobby Lobby.

On June 30, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby in a 5-4 vote.

“We anticipate the court will follow its usual practice of remanding our case for reconsideration in light of its decision,” Kennedy said in a statement following the Supreme Court ruling in June.

With the most recent decision, Kennedy has another chance to exempt Autocam from the mandate, this time with a Supreme Court ruling on his side.

“I am confident the Sixth Circuit will allow the Kennedy family to conduct business in a manner that is true to their sincerely held religious beliefs, including their practice of providing generous wages and award-winning health benefits to their employees,” Patrick Gillen, special counsel for the Thomas More Society, one of the religious public interest law firms representing Autocam, said in a statement.

NN Inc. of Johnson City, Tenn., agreed last month to buy Autocam for $244.5 million in cash and $25 million in stock. It will assume $30.5 million of the supplier’s debt. The deal is expected to close in the third quarter.

Autocam was on the honor roll for the Crain’s Detroit Business 2012 list of Michigan’s Healthiest Employers. The company said it provided 100 percent of preventive care costs for its employees and their families, including physicals and immunizations.

You can reach Katie Burke at -- Follow Katie on Twitter: @KatieGBurke



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