Supreme Court rules corporations can opt out of Obamacare contra - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Supreme Court rules corporations can opt out of Obamacare contraception requirement

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WASHINGTON,D.C. (WKOW) -- The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday some corporations can hold religious objections that allow them to opt out of the new federal health law's requirement covering contraceptives for women.

The 5-4 decision marks the first time the nation's high court has ruled profit-seeking businesses can hold religious views under federal law.

It means the Obama administration must search for a different way of providing free contraception to women who are covered under objecting companies' health insurance plans.

Under the Affordable Care Act, which President Obama signed into law in 2010, contraception is among a range of preventive services that must be provided at no extra charge.

Two years ago, Chief Justice John Roberts cast the pivotal vote that upheld the health care law as a whole in the midst of the 2012 presidential election campaign. In Monday's ruling, Roberts sided with the four justices who would have struck down the law in its entirety. The court's four justices viewed as more liberal dissented.

The court stressed that its ruling applies only to corporations that are under the control of just a few people in which there is no essential difference between the business and its owners, like Oklahoma-based Hobby Lobby, which challenged the contraception provision.

Justice Samuel Alito, who wrote the majority opinion, also said the decision is limited to contraceptives offered under the health care law.

"Our decision should not be understood to hold that an insurance-coverage mandate must necessarily fall if it conflicts with an employer's religious beliefs," Alito wrote.

He suggested two ways the administration could ensure women get the contraception they want. It could simply pay for pregnancy prevention, he wrote. Or it could provide the same kind of accommodation it has made available to religious-oriented, not-for-profit corporations. Those groups can tell the government that providing the coverage violates their religious beliefs. At that point, the groups' insurers or a third-party administrator takes on the responsibility of paying for the birth control.

Houses of worship and other religious institutions whose primary purpose is to spread the faith are exempt from the requirement to offer birth control.

In a dissent she read aloud from the bench, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg called the decision "potentially sweeping" because it minimizes the government's interest in uniform compliance with laws affecting the workplace. "And it discounts the disadvantages religion-based opt outs impose on others, in particular, employees who do not share their employer's religious beliefs," Ginsburg said.

The government's supporters in this case pointed to research showing that nearly one-third of women would change their contraceptive if cost were not an issue.

Nearly 50 businesses have sued over covering contraceptives. Some, like those involved in the Supreme Court case, are willing to cover most methods of contraception, as long as they can exclude drugs or devices that the government says may work after an egg has been fertilized. Other companies object to paying for any form of birth control.

There are separate lawsuits challenging the contraception provision from religiously affiliated hospitals, colleges and charities.

A survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation found 85 percent of large American employers already had offered such coverage before the health care law required it.

It is unclear how many women potentially are affected by the high court ruling. Hobby Lobby is by far the largest employer of any company that has gone to court to fight the birth control provision. The company has roughly 15,000 full-time employees in more than 600 crafts stores in 41 states. The owners are evangelical Christians who also own a Christian bookstore chain.



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