KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Nonprofit Religious Groups Pose Next Challenge To Contraceptive Mandate

The issue in more than four dozen lawsuits from faith-affiliated colleges, hospitals and charities is how far the government must go to accommodate them. Meanwhile, the administration weighs steps to provide contraceptive coverage, and the high court's Hobby Lobby decision may help Democrats mobilize female voters.

The Associated Press: Nonprofits’ Contraceptive Cases Next For Justices
How much distance from an immoral act is enough? That’s the difficult question behind the next legal dispute over religion, birth control and the health law that is likely to be resolved by the Supreme Court. The issue in more than four dozen lawsuits from faith-affiliated charities, colleges and hospitals that oppose some or all contraception as immoral is how far the Obama administration must go to accommodate them (7/6).

The New York Times: Obama Weighs Steps To Cover Contraception
The Obama administration, reeling from back-to-back blows from the Supreme Court this week, is weighing options that would provide contraceptive coverage to thousands of women who are about to lose it or never had it because of their employers’ religious objections. ... One proposal the White House is studying would put companies’ insurers or health plan administrators on the spot for contraceptive coverage, with details of reimbursement to be worked out later (Pear and Liptak, 7/4).

The Washington Post: High Court’s College Birth-Control Ruling May Further Outrage Democrats, Mobilize Them
Democrats have crafted much of their strategy in 2014 — a midterm year in which securing a House majority seems improbable and they may lose control of the Senate — around the imperative of turning out women voters, especially unmarried women. ... Within hours of the Hobby Lobby decision, progressive and left-leaning groups that focus on women’s issues, such as Planned Parenthood and EMILY’s List, were using it for midterm fundraising. On the right, the Hobby Lobby decision galvanized groups that saw it as an opportunity to file many more lawsuits such as Wheaton’s (Lowery, 7/4).

The Boston Globe: Supreme Court Rulings Jolt Women’s Groups Into Action
On the day the nation’s highest court ruled that family-owned businesses can decline to provide insurance coverage for contraception, Karyn Polito made sure a room full of Republican women knew exactly where she stands: in favor of women’s access to contraception and abortion. “We are our own brand on the social issues . . . embracing a woman’s right to choose,” said Polito, a Republican candidate for lieutenant governor, referring to herself and running mate, Charlie Baker. “That’s our message,” Polito said to rousing applause. Two recent Supreme Court cases — striking down Massachusetts’ abortion clinic buffer zone law and the federal requirement that employers cover contraception — have energized Massachusetts voters, politicians, and women’s organizations around issues of women’s health (Johnson, 7/7).

The Wall Street Journal: Christian School's Relief On Contraception Coverage Could Embolden Others
Thursday's order, which sets no legal precedent and applies only to Wheaton, allows the school to avoid covering birth control without filing a form with its insurer asserting religious objections to emergency contraception—which would trigger the third-party coverage. The order will expire once a federal appeals court rules in the school's case. Dozens of religious nonprofit schools, organizations and business owners have pursued legal challenges to the health care law's birth-control-coverage requirements. ... But entities could request arrangements like the one spelled out in the Wheaton injunction while their cases are pending in federal courts (Bravin, 7/4).

PBS NewsHour: Birth Control Injunction For Religious College Draws Dissent From Female Justices
The Supreme Court temporarily exempted a religious college from the contraception coverage provisions of the Affordable Care Act. The decision, which comes just days after a ruling in favor of some businesses objecting to provide birth control, has provoked sharp rebuke from the court’s three female justices. Judy Woodruff gets the details from Marcia Coyle of The National Law Journal (Woodruff, 7/4).

The Associated Press: Free Birth Control Is Emerging Standard For Women
More than half of privately insured women are getting free birth control under President Barack Obama's health law, a major coverage shift that's likely to advance. This week the Supreme Court allowed some employers with religious scruples to opt out, but most companies appear to be going in the opposite direction. Recent data from the IMS Institute document a sharp change during 2013. The share of privately insured women who got their birth control pills without a copayment jumped to 56 percent, from 14 percent in 2012. The law's requirement that most health plans cover birth control as prevention, at no additional cost to women, took full effect in 2013 (Alonso-Zaldivar, 7/6).

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