Benefits

New Contraception Case Makes Headlines

By Rita Pyrillis

Dec. 22, 2015

The Affordable Care Act is set to face another Supreme Court challenge to its provision for no-cost prescription contraception, but unless you’re an employer that is a private company controlled by a few family members with strong religious convictions, you are unlikely to be affected.
Last November, the Supreme Court accepted seven different appeals from religious nonprofits that are trying to wash their hands of any role in providing employees with contraceptive coverage.
The issue of employers with religious objections seemed to be resolved in the 2014 Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores Inc. case, which gave those employers a way to opt out, but it also left many unanswered questions, said Tim Verrall, a shareholder at the law firm Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart.
Employers with religious objections can submit a form stating their beliefs and let a third party cover the costs. But the group behind the most recent challenge has argued that even the act of filling out the form implicates them in a sin. They want to be covered by a blanket exemption that the government extends to churches.
“They believe that it’s like pushing a button that opens up a machine that give contraception to employees,” Verrall said. “The case is not about challenging the ACA as much as it is about religious freedom and whether filling out a form is burdening your exercise of religion.”
It’s an interesting case that gets a lot of press, but it isn’t going to affect many employers, according to Verrall.
“If you’re not an employer that is either a church, closely related to a church, or if you’re a not-for-profit company that is held by people who are related and have strong religious beliefs, this isn’t going to mean a whole lot to you,” he said.
A decision is expected before the end of the court’s session in June.
Rita Pyrillis is a writer based in the Chicago area.

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