Supreme Court Sides With Hobby Lobby to Weaken Obamacare Mandate

Rob Wilson/Shutterstock.com

Obamacare's contraception mandate infringes on religious liberty and must be waived for some business owners, the Supreme Court said in a 5-4 ruling Monday.

Certain employers cannot be forced to include contraception in their health care plans if doing so would violate their religious beliefs, the Court said. The justices did not strike down the birth-control mandate altogether, but their decision will weaken the policy's reach.

Writing for the majority, Justice Samuel Alito said the decision applied only to closely held corporations, like the two firms that filed this challenge.

How deeply the Court's decision undermines the contraception mandate will depend largely on how business owners respond. Women's-rights advocates have said a ruling in Hobby Lobby's favor could affect millions of women, although birth control remains a popular and particularly cost-effective benefit.

The furthest-reaching implications could come farther down the road; the Obama administration and its allies have warned that companies will rely on the ruling to seek exemptions from anti-discrimination laws.

"So another employer comes in and that employer says, 'I have a religious objection to sex-discrimination laws.' And then another employer comes in: 'I have a religious objection to minimum-wage laws.' And then another, family leave; and then another, child-labor laws," Justice Elena Kagan said during oral arguments in March.

Alito sought to blunt that possibility in Monday's ruling, writing that allowing companies to opt out of the Affordable Care Act's contraception mandate did not necessarily allow them to opt out of other health care requirements.

The challenge to the contraception mandate was filed by two for-profit companies—Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties—whose owners object on religious grounds to some forms of birth control.

Obamacare requires for-profit companies to include a defined set of preventive services in their health care plans without any cost-sharing—such as co-pays or deductibles—for employees. On the advice of an expert scientific panel, the Obama administration included contraception as one of the required preventive services.

The broader prevention mandate still stands, and contraception is still part of it. The Court's ruling only means that companies must be able to seek an exemption from the coverage requirement on religious grounds.

(Image via Rob Wilson/Shutterstock.com)

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

    Download
  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

    Download
  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

    Download
  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

    Download
  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.