Hobby Lobby Déjà Vu: Bosses Trying to Block Birth Control Coverage in New Supreme Court Cases
By Miriam Berg | Nov. 16, 2015, 1:54 p.m.
Category: Birth Control, Health Care Equity
Here we go again. The U.S. Supreme Court just took up several cases from employers who are suing to block their staff from getting birth control coverage as part of their employee insurance. This time religious nonprofits, which are already exempt from providing birth control coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), are claiming they don’t even have to complete basic paperwork — paperwork that would confirm their exemption and let their employees access birth control coverage a different way.
Every woman should have access to birth control without a copay, no matter where she works. And yet the group of seven cases the Supreme Court just took on could have a devastating impact on that access for some women.
Feeling déjà vu? You’re not alone.
How We Got Here
You may remember that in June 2014, the Supreme Court gave companies like Hobby Lobby the power to deny birth control coverage to their employees. Before, only religious organizations were exempt from Obamacare’s birth control benefit, which requires insurance companies (and, in turn, employers’ health plans) to cover birth control and other preventive services without a copay. The requirement came with an accommodation for religious nonprofits: If they expressed their objection to birth control coverage, and they didn’t have to provide it.
With the Hobby Lobby ruling, closely held companies — which employ more than half of the U.S. workforce, including tens of millions of American women — can also claim the accommodation. Not wanting to push women back to the days of paying up to $600 a year out-of-pocket for birth control copayments, the Obama administration set up a simple and effective solution: Bosses at companies like Hobby Lobby, as well as the religious nonprofits, can sign a form saying they object to birth control coverage. After they sign the form, the government works with the insurance companies to provide the coverage, and women’s access to care is protected.
What’s Happening Now
But apparently, anti-birth control bosses at religious nonprofits have an issue with doing that paperwork. In the cases the Supreme Court just took up, these bosses are arguing that simply filling out a form is too much of an infringement on their religious rights, and they’re demanding that the Supreme Court overturn this compromise.
Why? Because completing a form involves notifying the government in writing of their religious objection and their insurer’s name, which triggers a way for employees to get birth control coverage. They’re arguing that last part makes the form a substantial burden on their religious beliefs — despite the fact that it frees them from covering contraception in their health plans!Planned Parenthood Statement on Supreme Court Decision to Review the Accommodation to the Birth Control Benefit
It begs the question: Is opting out of a part of Obamacare really a substantial religious burden? We think not.
What These Cases are Really About
The legal details are complicated, but the stakes are simple and stark: in 2016 the Supreme Court will decide whether women who work for these employers and those like them will be stripped of their birth control coverage. This is not an issue of religious liberty, but rather an issue of access to health care — and the majority of Americans agree: 93% of female voters support birth control with no copay.
The Facts About Birth Control
Whatever the court decides, let this case serve as yet another reminder that the birth control benefit is having a transformative effect on millions of women's lives. Here are the facts about birth control in America:
99% of women between the ages of 15 and 44 who are sexually active have used birth control at some point
As a result of Obamacare’s birth control benefit, women now save approximately $1.4 billion a year on birth control pills alone.
Bloomberg ranked the pill as one of the top 10 most transformative inventions for the business sector in the past 85 years.
Tags: Obamacare, Hobby Lobby, Affordable Care Act, Supreme Court, ACA, Birth Control Lawsuits