Business owners with religious objections can be exempt from birth control mandate
WASHINGTON (June 30, 2014) — The U.S. Supreme Court today ruled that business owners with religious objections can be exempt from a provision of the Affordable Care Act that requires companies to provide health insurance that covers birth control.
The case was brought to the Supreme Court by for-profit corporations, including Conestoga Wood of Pennsylvania, owned by a family of Mennonite Christians; and Hobby Lobby, a family-owned chain of arts and crafts stores founded on Biblical principals.
In a 5-4 vote, the court held that companies can seek exemptions from the birth control mandate, but the ruling deals with only a small provision of Obamacare and will not take down the entire law, Politico reports.
In a majority opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito, the court said the ruling applies only to the birth control mandate and does not mean companies would necessarily succeed if they made similar claims to other insurance requirements. The opinion does not appear to open the door to other types of religious-exemption claims by companies.
The opinion also said employees would still be able to obtain birth control coverage via an accommodation to the mandate already introduced for religious-affiliated nonprofits. It allows health insurance companies to provide the coverage without the employer being involved in the process, according to Reuters.
Under the accommodation (itself the subject of a legal challenge), eligible non-profits must provide a “self certification” authorizing insurance companies to provide the coverage.
“The justices ruled for the first time that for-profit companies can make claims under a 1993 federal law called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA),” Reuters said.
The decision will affect similar cases brought by employers around the country. There are 49 cases.