Halting the Extension of ERISA’s Church Plan Exemption to Religiously Affiliated Hospitals

Justin Caresia.

This Comment argues that administrative agencies and courts that have extended the statutory language of ERISA’s church plan exemption to religiously affiliated hospitals have violated the unambiguous intent of Congress. It calls for special attention to be given to the analytical framework courts use in their analysis of the issue because courts that have ruled on the issue since 2013 have used a narrow analytical framework that has proven incomplete and caused some courts to reach the wrong result. Ideally, Congress would do away with the present chaos surrounding the church plan exemption by finally revisiting its language, scope, and policy implications. It is Congress’ duty to consider the policy implications of legislation it passes, and it is past time for Congress to adequately consider whether extending ERISA’s church plan exemption to religiously affiliated hospitals is what is best for the American people. By employing a cost-benefit analysis, Congress would likely realize that this extension is poor policy because the cost of allowing religiously affiliated hospitals, most of which more closely resemble corporate conglomerates than they do churches, to escape ERISA by hiding behind the church plan exemption far outweigh its benefits.

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