Affordable Care Act: Hobby Lobby Decision Limits Contraception Requirement

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As widely reported, on June 30th, the United States Supreme Court held in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores that certain methods of contraception under the preventive health services requirements of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) violate the Religious Freedom Restoration Act as applied to closely held for-profit corporations. Religious nonprofit employers were already generally exempt from the contraceptive mandate.

The regulations issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services currently require that non-exempt employers provide coverage for twenty contraceptive methods, including four that may have the effect of preventing an already fertilized egg from developing any further. At issue in Hobby Lobby were the four such contraceptive methods.

Although the Court’s opinion appears to be limited to the challenge to the four contraceptive methods, the Court issued orders in several related cases the day after the ruling, some of which challenged the requirement to provide any contraceptive methods. It remains to be seen whether the lower courts may take a more expansive approach.

In a related matter, the Court issued another order on July 3rd, in Wheaton College v. Burwell, stating that the religious nonprofit employer in the case was not required to complete the government-issued form to be eligible for the exemption from the contraceptive mandate.

Stay tuned.