The Supreme Court will decide whether some of the nation's largest health providers can rely on their church affiliation to avoid complying with federal laws covering pension benefits for workers.
The justices agreed Friday to take up cases involving three nonprofit hospital systems being sued for underfunding their employee pension plans.
Lower courts ruled against the hospitals — Advocate Health Care Network, Dignity Health and Saint Peter's Healthcare System — saying their pensions do not qualify as "church plans" exempt from the law. That could force them and other hospitals to spend billions to make up funding shortfalls.
The hospitals say federal agencies for years have assured them that they are exempt.
The Supreme Court in September temporarily blocked the most recent ruling against Dignity Health from taking effect.