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