Obama Administration Officially Extends Secondary Accommodation

When the Supreme Court ruled in Hobby Lobby that closely-held corporations should be exempted from the contraception requirement in the Affordable Care Act, the majority said that there was a less restrictive means of maximizing access to contraception. The Obama administration has now done exactly what the court said they could do to get around that ruling:

The Obama administration on Friday issued its final rules for employers who morally object to covering birth control in their health insurance plans. The accommodation ensures that all employed women, unless they work for a place of worship, will still have their birth control covered at no cost to them, even if their employers refuse to cover it.

Under the new rule, a closely held for-profit company that objects to covering contraception in its health plan can write a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services stating its objection. HHS will then notify a third-party insurer of the company’s objection, and the insurer will provide birth control coverage to the company’s female employees at no additional cost to the company…

The contraception mandate carved out an accommodation for religious non-profits, such as Catholic schools and hospitals, but some for-profit companies run by religious people sued the administration because they felt the law violated their beliefs about contraception. The Evangelical Christian owners of the craft chain store Hobby Lobby, for instance, believe certain forms of contraception are akin to abortion because they can prevent a fertilized egg from implanting into the uterus.

The Supreme Court sided with Hobby Lobby last summer and said the administration must provide an accommodation for religious-owned “closely held” companies, or companies in which five or fewer people are majority owners. The compromise issued on Friday was the administration’s response to the high court’s decision.

In short, they decided to extend the “secondary accommodation” available to religious non-profits to closely-held corporations, which the majority in Hobby Lobby explicitly said would be constitutional. But there are still ongoing legal challenges by religious non-profits even to the secondary accommodation, arguing that even giving them an exemption isn’t good enough. They argue that the mere act of telling the government that they have a religious objection to providing contraception still violates their religious freedom because doing so triggers the accommodation.

This is an absurd argument, of course, but lower courts have been divided on it. It’s likely that those cases will reach the Supreme Court next term. The question then is, will they stick to their statements in Hobby Lobby that the secondary accommodation is a less restrictive means of achieving the compelling interest in maximizing access to birth control? Time will tell.

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  • eric

    This is an absurd argument, of course, but lower courts have been divided on it. It’s likely that those cases will reach the Supreme Court next term.

    I almost hope they rule conservatively and say that these companies don’t have to inform HHS. If the Supremes stick the government between the “rock” of statutory mandated contraception coverage and “hard place” of a doctors office or pharmacy having to issue proscriptions at no cost to people without employer insurance for it, that’s starting to look an awful lot like single payer.

  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    They argue that the mere act of telling the government that they have a religious objection to providing contraception still violates their religious freedom because doing so triggers the accommodation.

    Well, if it’ll make you feel better, they’ll happily move the goalpost to “Even if our beliefs about how drugs work are wrong and even if we don’t pay for it and even if we don’t have to tell you about our private corporation’s Religious Belief it still compromises our Religious Liberty even if a third party provides the coverage”.

     

    And even if it doesn’t make you feel better we’ll do it anyway. Frankly, us Christian Limited Liability Corporations are sick and tired of you people telling us what we can’t do with our employees’ reproductive tracts.

  • gshelley

    Does this mean the insurance company will charge these companies less for the insurance they provide than the ones that accept the insurance coverage?

  • Eric Ressner

    gshelley @3:

    Actually, their insurance should cost MORE if they refuse the contraceptive coverage, because prenatal care and delivery are SO much more expensive than contraception.

    And I would be up to my nostrils in schadenfreude when they have to pay extra to exercise their sincerely held religious belief.

  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    Eric Ressner “Actually, their insurance should cost MORE if they refuse the contraceptive coverage, because prenatal care and delivery are SO much more expensive than contraception.”

    Why punish the Job Creators for the moral deprivation of their slutty employees? These should be issues covered monetarily and morally by their husbands or, failing that, their fathers or male siblings.

     

    In any event, if these tramps spent more time on their feet working or on their knees worshipping Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and less time on their backs en flagrante, this wouldn’t even come up.

  • http://drx.typepad.com Dr X

    Actually, their insurance should cost MORE if they refuse the contraceptive coverage, because prenatal care and delivery are SO much more expensive than contraception.

    I think the latest on that is they aren’t really sure. Any net costs, either way, will be distributed across everyone covered under the same policy, whether their employer is opt out or not. And I suppose the federal government, i.e. all of us, pick up a share via subsidies to those eligible.

  • howardhershey

    If an employee of one of these misbegotten plantation owners were to be the one to inform the government of their boss’s objections, the government should be able to then activate the secondary accommodation without involving her overseers at all. And ideally without them being able to determine who the insolent slut was.

  • eric

    @7: agreed. For most corporations that use providers like Kaiser or Aetna or Blue Cross to administer their health care plans, the pharmacy calls up the provider. That provider really doesn’t have any reason to inform the corporation if they are giving some non-corporate-plan service to the pharmacy. However, some corporations administer their own plans with the Aetnas etc. just providing the health services. When the pharmacy calls the number on that insurance card, they get a corporate employee health benefits administrator. And that could be a problem.

  • sigurd jorsalfar

    Extending Secondary Accommodations? WTF? The proper reaction to a SCOTUS decision that you disagree with is to call the judges on the court traitors and black robed tyrants, demand that they be impeached, and insist that their decision has destroyed America, all the while reveling at the thought of such destruction.

  • eava

    I really hate how the reporting on the contraceptive mandate focuses on female employees, as if male employees don’t use their health insurance to cover contraceptives prescribed to their wives and (gasp!) daughters. I think most men like, want and need contraceptive coverage too, wven if they aren’t the ones actually swallowing the pill, etc.

  • footface

    What I hate about this whole business is the disingenuous argument that these people have a “religious belief” that such-and-such form of contraception constitutes abortion. Scientists—who understand the arguments from biology and anatomy—can say the morning-after pill doesn’t cause abortion. And somehow we let these nonscientists say, “Well, it’s our religious belief that the morning-after pill DOES cause abortion.” How is that a religious belief? It’s a belief (an erroneous belief, at that) about a particular pharmaceutical. Do the holy books say anything about the morning-after pill? What makes a belief a “religious belief”? If a Christian believes it, does that make it ipso facto a religious belief?

  • eric

    @11: a sincere erroneous religious belief is still a sincere religious belief. I’m not an expert at how the courts decide what’s a scam belief vs. a sincere one, but it seems to me that the standard test is regardless of how erroneous it may be, you look at whether the claimants ‘live’ their belief – i.e., abide by it, and abided by it before it became a court case. Christian scientists erroneously believe that prayer heals and medicine doesn’t, but nobody doubts the sincerity of someone who eschews all medicine. Likewise if the Hobby Lobby owners have consistently avoided use or support for birth control in the past – before the court case – then we can reasonably conclude that their belief is sincerely religious even if it is wrong. In contrast, if insurance companies charge such corporations lower fees and the day after this is announced hundreds of corporations suddenly decide this cost is against their religion, the courts will likely assess most of them to be scams/insincere.