KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

High Court Hears Arguments Regarding The Contraception Coverage Mandate

The justices appeared to be divided on the question of whether companies are entitled to a religious exemption from this mandate. A decision is expected in June.

The New York Times: Justices Seem Open To Religious Claims By Companies
In a long and lively argument that touched on medical science and moral philosophy, the Supreme Court on Tuesday seemed ready to accept that at least some for-profit corporations may advance claims based on religious freedom (Liptak, 3/25).

Los Angeles Times: Conservative Justices Seem Poised To Deal Blow To Obamacare
The Supreme Court's conservative majority sounded poised Tuesday to deal a blow to President Obama's healthcare law and rule that business owners may invoke their religious beliefs to opt out of a new federal requirement that they pay for birth control for female employees. Such a decision could open the door to an array of new religious freedom claims from those who object to other laws mandating such things as equal treatment for gays and lesbians or non-discrimination in hiring. A decision is expected by late June (Savage, 3/25).

The Wall Street Journal: Supreme Court Debates Contraception Requirement
The Supreme Court displayed a sharp divide Tuesday on the question of whether companies are entitled to a religious exemption from providing emergency contraceptives in their employee health plans. It was the first time the Affordable Care Act appeared before the high court since it largely upheld the law in 2012. Under the law, employers must cover contraceptives in workers' insurance plans without copayments, or face a fine (Bravin, 3/25).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Birth Control Rule Seems To Divide Supreme Court
Seemingly divided, the Supreme Court struggled Tuesday with the question of whether companies have religious rights, a case challenging President Barack Obama’s health overhaul and its guarantee of birth control in employees’ preventive care plans. Peppering attorneys with questions in a 90-minute argument, the justices weighed the rights of for-profit companies against the rights of female employees. The discussion ranged to abortion, too, and even whether a female worker could be forced to wear an all-covering burka (3/25).

Politico: Hobby Lobby Case: Justices To Watch
In a rare 90-minute session, the Supreme Court on Tuesday dug deep into the religious-freedom challenge Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties are mounting against the Obamacare contraception mandate. As in other high-profile cases, court-watchers examined every question, comment, twitch and grimace in a quest to divine where the justices are headed. Of course, it’s a truism that justices’ remarks at arguments don’t always reflect where they will ultimately come down in a case (Gerstein, 3/26).

CNN: Court Majority Harshly Critical Of Obamacare Contraception Mandate
A key provision of the health care reform law championed by President Barack Obama came under harsh criticism from the conservative majority of the Supreme Court on Tuesday. The justices debated a hotly contested issue testing the limits of government-mandated contraception coverage, specifically involving for-profit corporations that object to it for religious reasons. The justices appeared divided along ideological lines in a 90-minute oral argument, with the federal government offering a spirited defense of the Affordable Care Act (Mears, 3/25).

PBS NewsHour: Can Corporations Exercise Religious Rights? Supreme Court Hears Case On Contraception Coverage
The Supreme Court heard arguments in a case brought by two companies run by devoutly religious families. They say that the health care law's requirement that employers’ health insurance plans cover certain contraceptives violates their beliefs. Tim O'Brien from Religion and Ethics Newsweekly offers background, and Marcia Coyle of The National Law Journal joins Judy Woodruff for analysis (Woodruff, 3/25).

McClatchy: Expect A Close Ruling As Supreme Court Weighs Contraceptive Coverage
Conservative Supreme Court justices on Tuesday foreshadowed how they might rule on whether certain for-profit corporations could claim religious exemptions from the health care law’s contraceptive mandate. In the year’s most closely watched case, justices showed sharp divisions along familiar conservative-liberal lines. Another 5-4 decision appears likely in this latest challenge to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Doyle, 3/25).

Fox News: High Court Clash Over ObamaCare Contraceptive Mandate
One of the most controversial provisions of ObamaCare -- the mandate requiring employers to cover contraception -- was debated before the Supreme Court on Tuesday, as activists on both sides of the issue clashed outside the courtroom in Washington. The justices appeared divided in the case, which is the highest-profile challenge to the health care law since the Supreme Court narrowly upheld the Affordable Care Act in 2012. The case argued Tuesday involves family-owned companies, including Hobby Lobby, that provide health insurance to their employees, but object to covering certain methods of birth control that they say can work after conception, in violation of their religious beliefs (3/25).

CBS News: Hobby Lobby Case Fires Up Women, Conservatives On Supreme Court
The women of the Supreme Court and the conservative men on the court appeared split Tuesday over whether for-profit companies have religious freedom protections that would exempt them from providing their workers with health care coverage for contraception. The justices listened to arguments from two privately-held, for-profit companies -- Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. The companies have sued the government over the Obamacare mandate requiring companies with more than 50 employees to provide comprehensive health coverage (including contraception) or pay a fine. The case encompasses some of the most politically divisive themes and issues of the 2012 election – Obamacare, the left's "war on religion," the right's "war on women," and the notion of corporate personhood (Condon, 3/25).

The Baltimore Sun: Protests Mark Supreme Court Hearing On Contraceptives
A springtime snowfall dampening their signs, if not their spirits, several hundred activists divided into opposing groups Tuesday on the plaza in front of the Supreme Court to make their own opening arguments over the Affordable Care Act. The point of contention: the law's requirement that privately owned businesses provide employees with health insurance that covers contraception (Marbella, 3/25).

NBC News: Will Supreme Court's Obamacare Ruling Affect You?
The Supreme Court’s ruling on the Hobby Lobby case will put your boss right into the doctor’s examination room with you. Or else it will completely erase your rights to religious freedom if you make the mistake of starting a business. Or neither. To hear either side argue it, the outcome of the Hobby Lobby case will be dire. It will either allow employers to impose their religious beliefs on their workers, or it will allow the federal government to force business owners to go against their consciences (Fox, 3/25).

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