Supreme Court: Employers Can Deny Contraceptive Coverage

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled business owners may refuse to provide their employees with insurance coverage for contraceptives if the owners have religious objections to certain forms of birth control.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act requires employers to include a set of preventive services in their employees' healthcare plans if they offer healthcare benefits. The Obama administration included FDA-approved contraceptives in the list of mandatory preventive services. There is no provision in the law that exempts for-profit companies from providing contraceptives, even if they are owned by religious families.

In the case, craft chain Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties — two family-owned companies — claimed the mandate violates their religious liberty under the First Amendment and a 1993 federal law — the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Hobby Lobby is owned by Evangelical Christians and Conestoga Wood Specialties is owned by Mennonites. 

The government argued for-profit corporations do not exercise religious rights as individuals and are not covered by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

In a 5-4 decision, the justices decided the rights of female employees to receive the full contraceptive coverage promised by the PPACA are trumped by the religious rights of company owners.

The court's holding may have opened the door to allow other businesses to avoid the contraception mandate. Additionally, the court's decision could have implications not only for women and their reproductive health but also for other groups. For example, the decision may allow businesses to claim a religious exemption from antidiscrimination laws. 

More Articles on Supreme Court Decisions in Healthcare:

5 Things to Know About the Supreme Court Review of the PPACA Contraceptive Mandate
AHA Urges Supreme Court to Bar Excessive False Claims Act Penalties
Supreme Court Sides with FTC in Phoebe Putney Case

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