In a narrow 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled today that closely-held companies can be exempt from the contraceptive coverage mandated under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
The owners of Hobby Lobby, an evangelical-owned craft chain, and Conestoga Wood Specialties, a small Mennonite-owned furniture maker, were among the 49 for-profit companies that argued that the ACA violates their religious freedom, by requiring them to provide coverage for contraceptives like the “morning-after pill”.
The Obama administration had already provided exemptions for nonprofits with religious affiliations, such as Catholic universities, but it had not given exemptions to for-profit corporations.
The law at issue in the case, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), has never been applied to for-profit entities. The High Court had to decide whether corporations even have religious exercise rights.
Writing for the majority, Justice Samuel Alito wrote, “We hold that the regulations that impose this obligation violate RFRA, which prohibits the Federal Government from taking any action that substantially burdens the exercise of religion unless that action constitutes the least restrictive means of serving a compelling government interest”.
Justice Alito went on to write that the contraception rule “would put these merchants to a difficult choice: either give up the right to seek judicial protection of their religious liberty or forgo the benefits, available to their competitors, of operating as corporations.”
The Justices, however, stopped short of any broad ramifications that could have come from shielding all for-profit firms from laws that interfere with religious beliefs.
The complexities of health care reform require each business to engage in a detailed and comprehensive analysis of its own facts, objectives and circumstances to develop a strategic plan that makes sense for its direction and goals. For more information concerning the ACA and your business, contact attorney Beth Latchana at 517.377.0826 or firstname.lastname@example.org; or Darrell Lindman at 517.377.0844 or email@example.com.