The U.S. Supreme Court Decision on Hobby Lobby

The contraceptive mandate requires non-grandfathered group health plans and health insurers to furnish “preventive care and screenings” for women without “any cost sharing requirements.” This includes the coverage of 20 contraceptive methods approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Religious employers, such as churches, are exempt and so are religious nonprofit organizations with religious objections to providing coverage for contraceptive services.

Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood are for-profit, closely-held companies that objected to the contraceptive mandate in the Affordable Care Act and took their case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. They argued that providing these contraceptive services went against their deeply Christian values and violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA).

Holding
On June 30th, the Court announced their 5:4 decision that Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood did not have to comply with the contraceptive mandate as it violated their religious beliefs and the Court decided there was another “less restrictive alternative” available through the Health and Human Services department.

What Does this Mean?
The ruling does not fundamentally challenge the Affordable Care Act or the contraceptive requirement. The decision only means that Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Woods do not have to comply with the mandate. It does not extend to every for-profit company who has a religious objection.                 

Companies cannot and should not stop providing contraceptive coverage based on this ruling, especially if they do not fit into one of the previously existing exemptions. As the Court’s ruling was limited to Hobby Lobby, it will take time before the government creates a procedure for other for-profit, closely held companies to potentially obtain an exemption. The “less restrictive alternative” must also be established and formalized and the White House has called upon Congress to act on this.

J.W. Terrill will continue to provide current information as more news becomes available.

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About Andie Schieler

Andie is an attorney and works in J.W.Terrill's Compliance division specializing in interpreting the Affordable Care Act and various insurance laws. She advises clients on legal and regulatory issues affecting their employee benefit plans. She obtained her law degree from Saint Louis University and undergraduate from Indiana University Bloomington.

View all posts by Andie Schieler

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