KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Hobby Lobby Ruling Creates Uncertainty About Contraceptive Mandate

The options the Supreme Court floated to extend coverage to women who work for closely held companies that object to covering contraception are opposed by some religious groups and women's rights groups. The compromise involves passing responsibility to an insurer.

The Wall Street Journal: After Hobby Lobby Ruling, Contraception-Coverage Alternatives Face Hurdles
Two options the Supreme Court floated to extend contraception coverage after its Hobby Lobby ruling face steep opposition from religious groups and women's-rights advocates, setting up a clash over how regulators rework the contraception-coverage requirement. ... Many observers took the opinions as signaling courses available to the Obama administration. It will likely have to issue regulations tweaking the contraception rule to allow some employers to opt out, and to enable their workers to obtain coverage another way. The compromise arrangement that involves passing responsibility to an insurer, however, is considered unacceptable by religious groups (Radnofsky, 7/1).

McClatchy: Hobby Lobby Ruling Fuels Political And Legal Uncertainty
Across the country, women, employers, insurers and health care advocates are trying to adjust to the new legal landscape created by the Supreme Court’s decision allowing some for-profit corporations to deny contraceptive coverage to employees, based on the owners’ religious faith. As the real-life impact of the controversial ruling Monday slowly begins to play out, questions about its breadth, scope and meaning continue to be debated. In the 5-4 decision, the high court ruled that two family-owned corporations, Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties, did not have to cover birth control on their employee health insurance plans as required under the so-called “contraceptive mandate” provision of the Affordable Care Act (Pugh and Haven, 7/1).

Bloomberg: Hobby Lobby Ruling Complicates Obamacare Birth Control
The U.S. Supreme Court’s suggested work-around to provide and pay for employees’ birth-control coverage at businesses whose owners have religious objections hasn’t worked in practice, say the companies administering it. While free birth-control coverage is required under Obamacare, the insurance administrators providing it for workers at religious-affiliated groups say the current solution has left them stuck with the bill. That may be further exacerbated by the court’s ruling, which exempted for-profit, closely held companies whose owners have religious objections, said Mike Ferguson, chief executive officer at the Self-Insured Institute of America, Inc. (Wayne, 7/1).

Huffington Post: The Accidental Reason Companies Like Hobby Lobby Control Our Health Care
The Supreme Court's ruling Monday that Hobby Lobby can refuse to cover contraception for workers is yet another reminder that our bosses have a lot of control over the health care we receive -- and that's not likely to change any time soon. Jobs are the most common source of health insurance in the United States, a peculiar fact that sets the country apart from its international peers. That's why losing a job typically has meant losing health coverage, and it's why workers whose needs aren't met by their company's health plan have little recourse. They can go work elsewhere, pay much more money for health insurance on the open market or shell out cash for medical care that's not covered by their benefits (Young, 6/30).

Meanwhile, the ruling could spell trouble for a related group of lawsuits brought by nuns and religious nonprofits --

Huffington Post: Hobby Lobby Win Could Spell Trouble For Religious Nonprofits
In his opinion concurring with the Supreme Court's decision in the Hobby Lobby birth control case Monday, Justice Anthony Kennedy may have tipped his hand on a related group of lawsuits brought by nuns and religious nonprofits against the contraception mandate. ... Justice Samuel Alito wrote in the majority opinion that because the government already carves out an accommodation for religious nonprofits, it would not be a substantial burden on the government to extend that accommodation to religiously owned businesses. ... Alito deliberately left the door open for a ruling either way on the merits of the religious accommodation. ... But Kennedy, who would likely be the swing vote in a future ruling in the Little Sisters case, indicated in his concurring opinion on Monday that he would be more sympathetic to the administration than the religious groups on that particular debate (Bassett and Reilly, 6/30).

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