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The Hobby Lobby Ruling and the Implications on the ACA

The Supreme Court returned a verdict in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. on June 30, 2014 and the Justices decided by a 5-4 ruling that Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. and other for-profit corporations who have specific religious objections to providing and paying for the costs of contraception devices in the insurance policies they offer their employees are exempt from doing so. This decision changed a requirement built into the Affordable Care Act, but did not affect the overall intent and purpose of the Act.

The decision met immediate backlash the moment that the decision was published and the potential implications of the Supreme Court’s ruling is still being debated on social media, in the public and in politics.

One particular implication of the Hobby Lobby ruling is whether for-profit corporations will be allowed to invoke their religious beliefs and the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act (RFRA) to discriminate in other ways. In relation to the Hobby Lobby ruling, for-profit corporations are allowed to use RFRA to avoid paying for contraception for women. Sliding down the ladder, the question remains whether corporations could use their beliefs under the RFRA to avoid covering the costs of vasectomy for reasons similar to their opposition to contraception use. It’s also been discussed that employers could cite religious beliefs in order to oppose covering blood transfusions, vaccinations for children, or certain types of prescription drugs.

Although the Hobby Lobby decision specifically states that the ruling applies only to religious objections to providing and paying for contraception for female employees, the slippery slope is apparent and the fear of how the decision will spider out to different types of protections towards different types of people is reasonable.

Another major concern being discussed presently is whether for-profit corporations could invoke their religious objections against the LGBT community to avoid paying for the healthcare coverage of any employee who is openly LGBT.

Barry Lynn, who is the executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State and who helped draft the RFRA, is particularly concerned about the implication of the Hobby Lobby ruling on groups of people like the LGBT, who have been fighting for equal protection under the law for decades.

Lynn said, “I think it’s a certainty that states will run with this, that some other courts will adopt wide-ranging views of the significance of Hobby Lobby, and that there will be tremendous damage attempted not just to other forms of birth control, but to issues like LGBT rights. This is a real Pandora’s box with some ugly critters coming out of it already,”

It’s been suggested that the federal government could create a special insurance policy that would cover any employee that works for a company who has invoked their religious objections to contraception under the Hobby Lobby ruling, or to some other type of coverage if the effect of the Hobby Lobby ruling is expanded; however even this type of resolution would have a negative impact and would cost the government an unspecified amount of money.

Democrats in Congress are presently drafting a new piece of legislature that, if passed, would deal with the effects of the Hobby Lobby ruling and would prevent for-profit corporations from using the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act to avoid paying for certain health coverage for their employees. The Protect Women’s Health From Corporate Interference Act, which is supported and was written by both men and women in the House and Senate would clarify the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act to state that no for-profit corporation can use it (RFRA) or any other federal law or the religious beliefs of the corporation’s owners to avoid complying with the mandates of the Affordable Care Act.

If this law passes, it would supersede the Hobby Lobby decision and would subside all of the concerns and should quash any plots to utilize the Hobby Lobby decision to promote discrimination in the work place.