Health law birth control coverage before justices

Court is hearing arguments Tuesday in a religion-based challenge from family-owned companies that object to covering certain contraceptives in their health plans
Associated Press
Mar 23, 2014

The Obama administration and its opponents are renewing the Supreme Court battle over President Barack Obama's health care law in a case that pits the religious rights of employers against the rights of women to the birth control of their choice.

Two years after the entire law survived the justices' review by a single vote, the court is hearing arguments Tuesday in a religion-based challenge from family-owned companies that object to covering certain contraceptives in their health plans as part of the law's preventive care requirement.

Health plans must offer a range of services at no extra charge, including all forms of birth control for women that have been approved by federal regulators.

Some of the nearly 50 businesses that have sued over covering contraceptives object to paying for all forms of birth control. But the companies involved in the high court case are willing to cover most methods of contraception, as long as they can exclude drugs or devices that the government says may work after an egg has been fertilized.

The largest company among them, Hobby Lobby Stores Inc., and the Green family that owns it, say their "religious beliefs prohibit them from providing health coverage for contraceptive drugs and devices that end human life after conception."

Oklahoma City-based Hobby Lobby has more than 15,000 full-time employees in more than 600 crafts stores in 41 states. The Greens are evangelical Christians who also own Mardel, a Christian bookstore chain.

The other company is Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. of East Earl, Pa., owned by a Mennonite family and employing 950 people in making wood cabinets.

The administration says a victory for the companies would prevent women who work for them from making decisions about birth control based on what's best for their health, not whether they can afford it. The government's supporters point to research showing that nearly one-third of women would change their contraceptive if cost were not an issue; a very effective means of birth control, the intrauterine device, can cost up to $1,000.

"Women already have an income gap. If these companies prevail, they'll have a health insurance gap, too," said Marcia Greenberger, co-president of the National Women's Law Center.

The contraceptives at issue before the court are the emergency contraceptives Plan B and ella, and two IUDs.

The government also argues that employers would be able to invoke religious objections under the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act to opt out of other laws, including those governing immunizations, minimum wages and Social Security taxes. The Supreme Court previously has rejected some of these claims in cases decided before the law's enactment.

The issue is largely confined to family-controlled businesses with a small number of shareholders.

A survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation found 85 percent of large American employers already had offered such coverage before the health care law required it. There are separate lawsuits challenging the contraception provision from religiously affiliated hospitals, colleges and charities.

The federal appeals court in Denver ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby. Conestoga Wood lost its case at the federal appeals court in Philadelphia

In many respects, Hobby Lobby is the sort of company Obama would be pointing to as he advocates for corporate responsibility and a higher minimum wage.

Hobby Lobby's base pay for full-time employees is almost twice the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. They are offered health insurance, dental coverage and a retirement savings plan. Hobby Lobby stores close most nights at 8 p.m., which the company says is aimed at allowing employees to spend more time with their families.

The Greens say they have no desire to make health care decisions for their employees, but neither do they want to contribute to services to which they object.

One key issue before the justices is whether profit-making corporations may assert religious beliefs under the 1993 religious freedom law or the First Amendment provision guaranteeing Americans the right to believe and worship as they choose. The court could skirt that issue by finding that the individuals who own the businesses have the right to object.

The justices still would have to decide whether the birth control requirement really impinges on religious freedom, and if so, whether the government makes a persuasive case that the policy is important and is put in place in the least objectionable way possible.

Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood say the burden they face is clear in the $100-a-day fine for each employee they would have to pay for not complying with the contraception provision. By contrast, businesses that choose not to offer health insurance at all can pay a tax of $2,000 a year for each employee.

One potentially underemphasized aspect of the case is that there is no requirement that employers offer health insurance. They could pay the tax, which will be cheaper in many instances, according to Georgetown University's Martin Lederman, who has advanced the argument.

But Mark Rienzi, a Catholic University professor who is on the Hobby Lobby legal team, said Hobby Lobby would be at a competitive disadvantage with other employers who offer health insurance. "Their view is and has always been that they want to take really good care of their employees and their families," Rienzi said.

The companies say they believe life begins at conception, and they oppose only birth control methods that can prevent implantation of a fertilized egg in the uterus, but not other forms of contraception. There is dispute over whether any of these contraceptives works by preventing implantation, but the administration has not raised that issue in this case.

 

Comments

The Big Dog's back

They should be on the side of the law, not religion.

There you go again

But, what is one more exception/extension to Mr. Obama?!?! How many have been issued regarding this "perfect" health plan?

Contango

FYI:

Pres. Obama even 'quietly' killed the individual mandate.

Can't afford the high Obama☭are premium? No penalty!

http://www.upi.com/Top_News/US/2...

So why isn't Pres. Obama out crowing about this?

Presto

Holy Crap Contango I didn't know this! Now there's no fine if folks don't get their insurance afterall??? Omg I wonder how many other people don't realize this? Thank you so much for bringing this up and for providing the link--I'm going to tell EVERYONE at work bcs there are folks who signed up for coverage and aren't able to afford to pay even their first premium--Thank YOU!!!! :-)

Contango

@ Presto:

You're welcome.

"The cornerstone of democracy rests on the foundation of an educated electorate."

- Thomas Jefferson

Stop It

Cool, Tango. That's some good stuff to know. I, like Presto, know a few people that can't afford it either. Many of them work two part time jobs under 29 hrs apiece, but when put together it's well over 50 hrs per week.

Thanx for the heads up.

Contango

You’re welcome.

Without the bite of the penalty of the individual mandate, Obam☭are has all but in essence crashed, burned and died.

Strange, Sen. Cruz and other Repubs asked for a postponement and were excoriated and here Mr. Obama does it all by himself for two more yrs.

"Our sources in the insurance industry are worried the regulatory loophole sets a mandate non-enforcement precedent, and they're probably right. The longer it is not enforced, the less likely any President will enforce it."

http://online.wsj.com/news/artic...

SamAdams

No argument from me on that one!

The problem is that this law directly imposes on the freedom of religion, which is paramount. The State cannot make a law that "prohibits the free exercise thereof," and it has.

Nobody, including those involved in the lawsuit, suggests that women shouldn't be able to exercise choice in their preferred method of contraception. The issue here is whether or not you can be forced by the government to do something in direct opposition with your religious beliefs.

The First Amendment says you can't, and I suspect you'd agree with that if an ultra-religious, ultra-conservative majority in Congress mandated everybody attend church on Sunday mornings! It's a matter of choice, of course, as to which church you'd attend, so what's the problem with that? Aside from the obvious, that is...

Stop It

Churches need to start paying taxes if they are gonna tell one how to vote. Separation works both ways, or it doesn't work at all.

Contango

Re: "Churches need to start paying taxes if they are gonna tell one how to vote."

Agree. Let's start by eliminating the not for profit status of these -

"Eric Holder, IRS officials coached tax-exempt black ministers on how to engage in political activity":

http://dailycaller.com/2013/09/1...

Good 2 B Me

The laws of the land are NOT to be forced upon us by Religion.

holysee

READ MY ALL CAPS TEXT: TAX THE CHURCHES.
ALL CHURCHES.
NOW.
WE NEED THE MONEY TO TEACH SCIENCE.
NOW.
TAX THEM.
NOW.

anthras

Churches will never pay a tax just as businesses do not pay a tax.

If there would be a tax increase imposed upon any business it is the same as increased wages, insurance,utilities or any other expense and would be considered overhead and all the overhead expenses along with a profit is what determines the price of a product or service. The product or service is then sold to the consumer ergo the consumer pays the tax.I do run a small business and any increases of doing business including increases of taxes is passed on to my customers and they do understand this as they do the same in their businesses. As you can see every consumer pays the tax that is built into the cost of a product or service and unfortunately the poor and needy will also pay for any increase of taxes as business just collect the money from the consumer and forward it to the government.

The churches would be the same as any taxes imposed upon the churches would be paid by the congregations and in my church there are doctors, lawyers, bankers, business owners, labors, persons on unemployment compensation and welfare persons and I have been told by one of the money counters that the unemployed persons do contribute very well.

coasterfan

Omigosh, yes! I agree completely with the above. If religion is going to try to force its way into science class, public schools and politics, then it's high time they pay taxes, as well.

Personally, I'm not impressed by a.political party that wants to ban abortion, but fights the use of contraception, and doesn't want to provide funding for those same kids AFTER they are born.

holysee

TAX THE CHURCHES.
ALL CHURCHES.
NOW.
NOW.
TAX THEM.
NOW.

anthras

Re:"Personally, I'm not impressed by a.political party that wants to ban abortion, but fights the use of contraception,"

I do not think that they are fighting the use of contraception and it would still be available however if you wish to use it then just pay for the product. Maybe next he will mandate that along with the contraception cost the insurance companies also pay for the motel room.

Also why should it be completely free ? I use Plavix since my heart attack to sustain my health and life however I do pay $34.00 co-pay for a 3 month supply. If Obama wants people to have contraceptives free with no deductible could he at least lower my co-pay for a medication I need to keep my quality of life? I did also pay $3,000 for my hearing aids that are badly needed I am hoping that when I need replacements that he will mandate that a portion of the aids will be paid by my insurance.

reddog

I don't think the issue is about the contraception being completely free, it's about access to it in the first place. How would you feel if your employer felt that Plavix was somehow against their religion and didn't allow your health insurance policy to pay for a portion of it like they pay for, say, my son's antibiotics? It's about access.

Contango

Re: "I don't think the issue is about the contraception being completely free,"

See above article: "Health plans must offer a range of services at no extra charge,"

Employers need to get out of the health care ins. business and place it back on the individual like auto, home or life ins.

They only got into it because of wage and price controls placed on business by FDR during the 40s.

anthras

RE:"it's about access to it in the first place."

They do have access as no one is attempting to deny that. Checked with my pharmacy and was advised it cost around $9.00 for a month's supply of birth control pills even if they paid full price it would be less than my co-pay. I do not think Hobby Lobby is so much against birth control as much as abortion.

Kaptur is a Catholic and was not sure about voting for ACH but Obama did promise her that NO tax dollars would be spent for abortion and she did then support the bill and we know that was just another Obama lie.

Donegan

Just scrap the entire thing, Giant waste of money and the only ones it makes happy are the wannabe dictators who need to try everyone else how to live. Hobby Lobby should just give them the old "hardship exemption" excuse. Face it the law was stupid from the beginning and is failing miserably. Personally i could care less about what others do, Just don't ask me to pay for your failure or support your bad decisions.

coasterfan

What an odd comment. Only in Fox-Make-Believe-World is the law "failing miserably". Here's an update: the website had a horrible roll-out, but has since been fixed. Signup continues to improve, and will come close to the CBO estimates made early last Fall.

But that's just the signup. Ask the millions of Americans who (for the first time) have health care if they think it's a failure. Ask the tens of thousands of Americans who have a longterm chronic health issue like cancer - who can no longer be dropped from coverage - if they think it's a failure. Ask the millions of Americans who have better coverage than they used to if they think it's a failure.

I know, I know. You're a Republican and lack an Empathy gene, and don't think that other people less fortunate than you should be able to enjoy the things you enjoy.

anthras

Re:"Signup continues to improve, and will come close to the CBO estimates made early last Fall."

From the figures I have seen more persons have lost their insurance than have signed up. If you have different figures please cite your source.

Also of the many that have signed up the government either does not know or knows but will not release the figures of the number that have actually paid a premium and have valid coverage. Then there are the persons that signed up that went into medicaid paid for by the tax payers. Also the government is telling persons that there are subsidies available for those that qualify and that is paid for by whom?

grumpy

Re: "From the figures I have seen more persons have lost their insurance than have signed up. If you have different figures please cite your source."

Do you really expect him to cite a source? He doesn't do such things... they don't exist, you can't cite something that is imaginary. Cluster never cites anything, he can't be bothered to know where he read or heard something, he is much too busy to be bothered by such things, that is for peons, not the elite such as himself.

SamAdams

Well, except for the new glitches in the Website, of course...which erroneously told some they qualified for subsidies, and erroneously told others that they DIDN'T!

As for those who didn't have insurance before, and DO have insurance NOW, the vast majority are those newly eligible for Medicaid. Nice, especially for the cash-strapped taxpayer who can't afford Obamacare premiums and now faces increased taxation to pay for everybody else as well!

Donegan

As a non-republican or a democrat I can say with all certainty that the law is a failure. When it has to be rewritten illegally 20 some odd times by the admin (It's illegal because the executive cannot decide which law to enforce or part of the law without Congress writing it in) And over 7 million people have LOST insurance with only 5 million signing up (Thats if you believe the liar and chief who has lied nonstop about the thing) I would classify that as a failure. Now that all the mandates even the one the president shut down the government over is put off it is sure to be underfunded and more of a burden on the debt. You have no credibility criticizing anyone as you have proven time and time again you are delusional when it comes to the worshiping of your god and his signature legislation.
When you talk about emparthy does your extend to those who have lost their insurance and those the President has murdered with drones? Nah, Your a democrat (Read that as "Hypocrite") and as long as your god is in office your fine with it.

The Big Dog's back

Sorry, but right wingnutism, which you are a card carrying member, is a part of the Repub party.

Donegan

Guess you do not realize that your opinion of me means nothing as Liberalism has been proven to be a mental disorder and i am not the type to go around caring what crazy Obama worshiping anti American hate mongers think.
How does it feel to know that You god has failed?

Contango

Re: "What"

Spin it however it makes you feel better; without the teeth of the individual mandate, Obama☭are is effectively gutted.

Darwin's choice

Ah, coasterfan, you lying troll!

Please give a source for your bullchit. Again,I dare you.

"As Obamacare turns four years old on Sunday, the White House and congressional Democrats are activating "healthcare strike teams" to defend the unpopular health care law on Twitter using the hashtag #healthcare4all.

The Hill reported on Saturday that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is disseminating Obamacare talking points to Democrats and has joined White House staffers in tweeting a series of six Obamacare memes touting the benefits of the unpopular law. Other Democrats, like Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA), joined in the Obamacare birthday party with tweets like: "#ACA is turning 4. To celebrate pick one of the 4 ways to find an affordable plan."
That Democrats need to defend and explain Obamacare's alleged benefits after being the law of the land for four years speaks to Obamacare's deep unpopularity. According to the RealClearPolitics average of polls, just 39% of Americans now support Obamacare. And according to Gallup, President Barack Obama's approval rating is down to just 40%.
Many Democrats, however, will not be publicly celebrating Obamacare's four-year anniversary. As one Democratic member of Congress told the New York Times, President Barack Obama has become "poisonous" to Democrats running in the November midterm elections.
Voters will render judgment on Obamacare when they head to the polls in 226 days."
__________________

The Big Dog's back

I think it speaks more of the right wing hate machine.

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