Last Friday, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a decision in Gilardi v. HHS, one of the 40 plus lawsuits brought by for-profit companies challenging the health care law’s contraceptive coverage requirement. It requires health insurance plans to include coverage of the full range of FDA-approved forms of birth control. The Gilardis, who own Freshway Foods—a fresh produce processor and packer company (think pre-packaged salad mixes and perfectly pre-chopped carrots) —object to providing birth control in their employee health plan. The D.C. Circuit found in their favor, meaning that Freshway Food’s owners can exclude birth control from their employee health plan. The decision therefore denies women covered by Freshway Food’s health plan the ability to make independent decisions about their health and leaves them to pay higher costs for critical preventive care.
But, they’re asking the Supreme Court to review the decision anyway. Why? Read more »
In a unanimous decision in Autocam v. Sebelius, the 6th Circuit held that a for-profit, secular company is not a ‘“person’ capable of ‘religious exercise’” under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) (RFRA is a federal law that protects an individual’s exercise of religious freedom from substantially burdensome laws where the government did not have a compelling interest in passing the law). Based on this holding, the Autocam companies – Michigan-based manufacturers of auto and medical supplies – can’t bring a RFRA challenge to the Obamacare rule requiring health insurance plans to cover the full range of birth control methods. Oh, and the 6th Circuit held that Autocam’s owners also can’t challenge the rule under RFRA because the birth control requirement is on the company, not the owners.
This means that Autocam’s female employees and dependents will not have access to coverage for the birth control method that’s appropriate for them, without cost sharing. In other words, they finally get to take advantage of this fabulous Obamacare benefit that many of us have been enjoying for a year now. Read more »
I, like many other Georgetown students, let out a sigh of relief upon reading the most recent e-mail from President DeGioia. This e-mail announced that contraceptive coverage would be available to everyone on the University’s insurance plan with no additional cost to them or the University. This controversial change in Georgetown’s insurance policy is occurring thanks to the new health care law which is officially titled the Affordable Care Act, which requires employers to provide contraceptive coverage.
Regulations finalized by the Obama Administration in late June declared that the insurance companies themselves must pay directly for contraceptive services for those at non-profit organizations that oppose providing contraceptive coverage on religious grounds, such as Georgetown. DeGioia believes that these regulations “give us the opportunity to reconcile our religious identity and our commitment to providing access to affordable health care” and I couldn’t agree more. Read more »
Conestoga Wood Specialties is one of the almost 30 plus companies challenging the contraceptive coverage benefit. Conestoga has been arguing that, as a secular, for-profit corporation, it can exercise religious beliefs and that it should be allowed to impose those religious beliefs and the beliefs of its owners on its employees. Today, the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals said, quite simply, “no way!”
The court’s decision makes three important points: (1) Conestoga, as a for-profit, secular corporation, cannot exercise religious beliefs; (2) the Hahns, Conestoga’s owners, cannot impose their religious beliefs on their employees through their company; and (3) the decision does not disrespect the Hahns’ religious objections to contraception. Read more »
Last Thursday, July 11, a district court in Michigan refused to temporarily stop enforcement of the contraceptive coverage benefit against another for-profit corporation. The company challenging the contraceptive coverage benefit is Mersino Management. Mersino Management sells water bypass systems for profit. Indeed, it states that “complete water management is our specialty.” The bosses at Mersino Management also think that they have a special right to decide whether their employees get access to birth control. Specifically, Mersino Management has been arguing in court that for-profit companies can exercise religious beliefs and that bosses’ should be able to impose those religious beliefs on their employees to determine whether employees are able to have birth control coverage. Read more »
And then there are the lawsuits. The lawsuits just keep coming — many from for-profit companies. The cases are challenging the requirement under the health care law that all new insurance plans provide birth control coverage, without cost-sharing.
A new case was filed last week by a West Virginia-based corporation engaged in selling and servicing motor vehicles. While Holland Chevrolet’s 150 full-time employees receive employer based group health insurance, the company has always denied female employees and dependents access to the full range of birth control. Read more »
Yesterday, a divided 10thCircuit Court of Appeals put at risk access to contraception for more than 13,000 individuals. A majority of the court reversed a decision of a lower court which told the for-profit crafts store chain Hobby Lobby it has to comply with the federal contraceptive coverage benefit, just like other insurance plans across the country. But Hobby Lobby's owner doesn’t want to treat his employees like everyone else. He thinks he should be able to decide whether female employees and dependents can access insurance coverage for certain forms of contraception.
While the court did not grant Hobby Lobby the right to get out of the benefit — it sent the case back to the lower court to decide whether or not to grant a preliminary injunction — a majority of the 10thCircuit made it clear that it believes there is merit to the claim that bosses should be able to impose their religious beliefs on their employees.
Two of the dissenting judges think otherwise, making it clear that the contraceptive coverage benefit only applies to what insurance plans cover. No one will be forced to buy or use contraception. Read more »
But these aren’t the only kinds of losses hitting women in the manufacturing industry; even women who have managed to hold onto their jobs might find themselves stripped of some benefits if employers like John Kennedy, CEO of Autocam, have their way.
The Wisconsin Assembly is considering a bill that would undermine women’s ability to control their reproductive health. AB 216 targets both access to abortion AND access to contraception—a move that a member of the Committee on Health reviewing the bill described as “ironic.” I would add ‘poorly informed, contrary to reason, and designed to undermine women’s ability to control their health care decisions.’
If passed, the bill would weaken women’s reproductive health in two ways:
It would ban insurance coverage of abortion for state employees.
It would allow certain kinds of bosses to take away women’s access to insurance coverage of birth control.
Good news, the Second Circuit has just ordered that the two-pill versions of levonorgestrel-based emergency contraception be made available without any restriction. That's right, after years and years of waiting, some forms of emergency contraception will be available over the counter. You don't need a prescription and you don't need an ID. Considering what emergency contraception is about (ahem, providing back-up birth control in emergency situations), lifting these restrictions is really a victory for women's health.
What’s next? Well, the Second Circuit will now review the government's whole appeal — which includes the question of whether the one-pill version of Plan B should also be made available over the counter without any restriction (as ordered by the district court). Read more »