Supreme Court Rejects Contraceptive Mandate

On June 30, 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the ACA’s contraceptive mandate, as applied to closely held corporations with sincere religious objections, violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

The U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling, in two related cases, challenging the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) contraceptive coverage mandate. In these cases, three closely held for-profit corporations (Hobby Lobby Stores, Mardel and Conestoga Wood Specialties) argued that they should not be required to comply with the contraceptive mandate because covering certain types of contraceptives under their health plans violates their sincere religious beliefs.  Read More »

Items of Note:

  • This is a very limited holding.
    • The ruling only applies to closely-held for-profit corporations that assert a religious belief that reflects “an honest conviction.”
    • The ruling only applies to four challenged contraceptives that operate after the conception (two brands of emergency contraception and two intrauterine devices). It does not apply to other forms of birth control.
    • The ruling specifically states that it should not be understood to hold that all insurance coverage mandates such as vaccines or blood transfusions must necessarily fail if they conflict with an employer’s religious beliefs.
    •  The ruling also specifically states that the law cannot provide a shield for employers who might cloak illegal discrimination as a religious practice.
  • The Court goes to great lengths to describe government alternatives for providing the contraception in question while protecting the corporation’s exercise of religious freedom.
    • For example, the Court suggested that the federal government provide the funds to cover the cost of such contraception if the employer objects; or
    • Allowing for-profits to engage in the same type of “opt out” procedure granted to nonprofit religious entities whereby the issuer or third party administrator must pay for the contraception directly without employer involvement. .
  • The practical impact of this decision will not be known until the federal government issues regulations in line with this decision. Therefore, it is very difficult for employers to make any determinations until those regulations are released.

 

 

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