Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Obamacare Contraception Cases

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APTOPIX Health Overhaul Sebelius
Evan Vucci/APHealth and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is in charge of implementing the Affordable Care Act.
By Lawrence Hurley

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Supreme Court agreed Tuesday to consider religious objections made by corporations to a provision of "Obamacare" requiring employers to provide health insurance that covers birth control.

Oral arguments will likely be scheduled for March, with a ruling due by June.

The so-called contraception mandate of the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, requires employers to provide health insurance policies that include preventive services for women that include access to contraception and sterilization.

The key question before the court in the two cases it agreed to hear is whether corporations should be treated the same as individuals when making free exercise of religion claims under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and a 1993 federal law called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

One of the cases was filed by arts and crafts retailer Hobby Lobby Stores Inc and Mardel, a chain of Christian bookstores. Both are owned and operated by David and Barbara Green and their children, who are evangelical Christians. The administration of President Barack Obama sought the high court's review in that case after losing before a federal appeals court.

The other case was brought by a Mennonite family that owns a company in Pennsylvania, %VIRTUAL-article-sponsoredlinks%Conestoga Wood Specialties. The company, which lost in federal appeals court, is owned and operated by Norman and Elizabeth Hahn and their three sons.

The court took no action on a third case filed by Michigan companies Autocam and Autocam Medical.

The cases aren't a direct challenge to the mandate itself. The question is whether closely held companies owned by individuals who object to the provision on religious grounds can be exempted from the requirement.

The legal questions surrounding U.S. Health and Human Services regulations issued under the preventive health provisions of the Obamacare law haven't previously been before the court. In June 2012, the justices upheld the constitutionality of the law's core feature that requires people to get health insurance on a 5-4 vote.

The cases are Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood v. Sebelius, U.S. Supreme Court, No. 13-354, 13-356.

Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Obamacare Contraception Cases
A year ago, in response to a Reddit thread titled "What is Obamacare and what exactly did it change," one user put together an exhaustive post that explains pretty much everything about Obamacare. While some of its answers are a little out-of-date, it is incredibly complete, and regularly links back to the original Obamacare legislation. For most Obamacare questions, it's the first -- and best -- site.
Unfortunately, for all its completeness, the Reddit explanation isn't the most interesting read. If you want something a little more diverting, you may consider taking a peek at Obamacare: Explain It Like I'm Five. Basically, this cartoon explains Obamacare like a playground argument, a he said/she said battle between insurers and average people, with Obama running interference in the middle. As an added plus, the website also lists 24 bullet points covering most of the things that Obamacare will change.
If you want something a bit more scholarly, Obamacare Exchanges Open: The New Law Explained in Seven Easy Steps uses President Obama's own words to explain several main points of the plan, answering questions about how it will affect health care costs, how it will impact small businesses, and the positive effect that it may have on family finances. And, for those who like bullet points, the White House has put together a list of their own.
Speeches and bullet points and detailed explanations are all well and good, but if you're one of those people who likes to get their weighty explanations with a spoonful of sugar, The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation's new video, "The Youtoons Get Ready for Obamacare" does a great job of explaining most of the ins and outs of the new law. It's hard to find a better ground-level understanding of how the new law will affect your life.
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