Supreme Court Deals Big Blow to One ObamaCare Mandate

In 7-2 ruling, exemptions expanded to requirement that free birth control be on employer health plans
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 8, 2020 9:55 AM CDT
Supreme Court Deals Big Blow to One ObamaCare Mandate
Stock photo.   (Getty Images/sframephoto)

Obtaining birth control through one's health plan at work may now be more difficult after a Supreme Court ruling Wednesday that expanded exemptions to an ObamaCare contraceptive mandate, NBC News and CNN report. In a 7-2 decision penned by Justice Clarence Thomas, the high court cleared the way for the Trump administration to give employers more flexibility in denying free birth control to employees based on religious or moral objections. The current Affordable Care Act law requires employer-offered health insurance plans to offer contraception at no cost; which employers qualify for exemptions has been murky since the law was put into place in 2010. Houses of worship, and then later some nonprofit religiously tied employers, earned the exemption initially, followed by private, religiously linked companies after the 2014 Hobby Lobby decision.

Wednesday's ruling allows publicly traded companies and big universities to claim the religious exemption; employers and schools who present a moral objection can circumvent the mandate as well. "We hold that the [Labor, Health and Human Services, and Treasury] Departments had the authority to provide exemptions from the regulatory contraceptive requirements for employers with religious and conscientious objections," Thomas wrote in the court's decision, overturning an appeals court ruling. In a dissenting opinion joined by Sonia Sotomayor, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote that "today, for the first time, the Court casts totally aside countervailing rights and interests in its zeal to secure religious rights to the nth degree." She adds that "this Court leaves women workers to fend for themselves ... and, absent another available source of funding, to pay for contraceptive services out of their own pockets." (More US Supreme Court stories.)

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