A Guide to the Supreme Court’s Review of the Contraceptive Coverage Requirement

Since the Affordable Care Act (ACA) passed in early 2010, there have been a lot of legal challenges that have come to the forefront of the healthcare reform debate, including the individual mandate, Medicaid expansion, and federal regulation of state commerce to name just a few. In an issue brief released by the Kaiser Family Foundation on December 9, 2013, the authors reviewed the most recent challenge taken up by the U.S. Supreme Court. In late November 2013, the Court accepted two separate cases to decide on the constitutionality of whether the contraceptive mandate, a requirement of the ACA, infringes on protections of religious freedom under the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA).

The brief outlines the two cases, Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores and Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Sebelius, and discusses the potential ramifications if the Court does not uphold the mandate.  Currently, nonprofit, religiously affiliated organizations (i.e., houses of worship) are exempted from the mandate that requires all new private insurance plans to provide access to all FDA approved contraceptive methods. However, “insurance companies are required to cover the cost of contraceptives for employees of religiously affiliated organizations that have requested… [a religious]… accommodation at no cost to the employees or the employers.” To qualify for the accommodation the organization must have religious objections to providing some or all contraceptive coverage, file as a nonprofit, advertise as a religious organization in the public domain, and self-certify that they meet the first three criteria.

The Court’s decision, expected by June 2014, will try to lay to rest whether for-profit, private businesses should be afforded the same protection of rights as individuals and religious organizations under the First Amendment and the RFRA, which could have broad reaching policy implications for both equality for women in the workplace and religious freedom.

To read the entire issue brief, click HERE

 

Preventive Services and the ACA

Did you know that under section 1001 of the Affordable Care Act, many insurers will be required to provide many types of preventive services without cost sharing? Any preventive service rated as A or B by the US Preventive Services Task Force will be provided without cost-sharing (e.g. out of pocket payment). This requirement is now in effect and applies to Medicare, new private insurance plans, and existing plans that have not been “grandfathered.” Persons covered under Medicaid expansion will also be covered under this requirement. However, persons under the existing Medicaid program may not and need to check with their state Medicaid office.

You can see a complete list of all preventive services covered without cost sharing here (list includes 51 services as of this writing).

Fewer Minorities Get Screened for Colorectal Cancer

A new study conducted in the Center for Health Policy at the University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Public Health has determined that racial and ethnic minorities are less likely to be screened for colorectal cancer in the United States. The study, which analyzed data from across the country between 2000 and 2005, was conducted by Jim Stimpson, Ph.D., director of the Center for Health Policy at UNMC. Results were published in the December issue of the public health journal, Health Affairs.

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