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Supreme Court contraception decision not likely to have big area impact

Justices rule in favor of corporate religious views

POSTED: July 1, 2014 1:10 a.m.

Local employers and their insured employees are not likely to be affected by Monday’s Supreme Court decision on contraception coverage because most employers already provide contraception and other preventive care under their existing insurance plans.

The court ruled 5-4 in favor of retailer Hobby Lobby, allowing the company to opt out of providing certain forms of contraception coverage under the Affordable Care Act. The decision marks the first time a high court has ruled that a profit-seeking business can hold religious views under federal law.

“I don’t see this having a large impact locally as employers include the coverage as part of their plan now,” Rob Fowler, executive vice president of Turner, Wood and Smith insurance said in a written statement. “Most large U.S. employers provide contraceptive coverage for their employees. Employers were doing this before the health care law was passed ... Contraception is just one of a number of preventive services that must be provided at no additional cost to the insured.”

Tim Evans of the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce said a seminar designed to bring local businesses up to speed on health coverage law will be held in August and will likely cover the effects of Monday’s decision.

“We know how important this is for small businesses to understand,” Evans said. “(The seminar is) for businesses who need an update as this continues to evolve. We’ve held these every six months, and there’s always something new.”

Under the Affordable Care Act, companies with 50 or more full-time employees will be required by 2016 to provide minimal affordable insurance coverage or pay a penalty, according to information provided by Fowler.

As part of the minimal coverage, a range of preventive care services, including contraception, must be provided to the insured with no additional costs in the form of co-payments, deductibles or co-insurance.

Fowler said the preventive services are built into the rate the insurer pays for coverage.

Monday’s decision in the Hobby Lobby case affects corporations controlled by only a small number of people. Houses of worship and other religious institutions are already exempt from the requirement to cover birth control.

Justice Samuel Alito, who wrote the majority opinion, said, “(The owners of Hobby Lobby) have a sincere religious belief that life begins at conception.

“They therefore object on religious grounds to providing health insurance that covers methods of birth control that ... may result in the destruction of an embryo.”

He said the contraceptive mandate “demands that they engage in conduct that seriously violates their religious beliefs.”

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote in her dissent that the exemption would infringe on the religious freedom of employees by “deny(ing) legions of women who do not hold their employers’ beliefs access to contraceptive coverage,” adding that it “discounts the disadvantages of religion-based opt outs, in particular, employees who do not share their employer’s religious beliefs.”

The local delegation in Washington hailed the decision as one that stops the government from restricting religious freedom.

“We teach our children that doing what they feel is right may sometimes come at a cost. For too many Americans, the overreach of Obamacare means that doing what they feel is right can result in an actual monetary fine,” 9th District U.S. Rep. Doug Collins said in a written statement Monday. “Today’s Supreme Court decision rights that wrong. Any victory for religious freedom is a victory for the First Amendment rights of all Americans.”

U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson also hailed the decision as a protection of religious freedom and a signal that Obamacare is “unworkable,” and he called it, “a signal to the Obama administration that it cannot continue to infringe the Constitutional rights of Americans.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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