Washington Law Review


On October 13, 2017, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, U.S. Department of Treasury, and U.S. Department of Labor published two nearly identical interim final rules in the Federal Register. To do so, the agencies invoked the Administrative Procedure Act’s good cause exemption, permitting the rules to bypass prepromulgation notice and comment rulemaking requirements. The interim final rules allowed employers and insurers that provide group healthcare coverage under the Affordable Care Act to seek constitutional and moral exemptions—specifically for contraceptives and other preventive health services coverage. Using the two 2017 interim final rules as an illustration, this Comment considers whether constitutional and moral objections should qualify as valid reasons for administrative agencies to invoke the Administrative Procedure Act’s good cause exemption, ultimately arguing they should not. If valid, this use of constitutional and moral objections would broaden administrative agencies’ ability to bypass notice and comment rulemaking procedures, thereby delegitimizing the rulemaking processes and undercutting opportunities for public participation.

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