clock menu more-arrow no yes

The White House has a plan to get birth control to Hobby Lobby workers

Joe Raedle

The White House made two changes to Obamacare's contraceptive mandate on Friday.

Both center on a previously-drafted accommodation for religious non-profits who have a moral objection to paying for certain types of birth control. That provision lets these objectors opt-out of paying for birth control and requires their health insurance plans to step in and foot the bill.

An accommodation for closely-held for-profits

The Supreme Court ruled in June that closely-held for for-profit corporations like Hobby Lobby do not have to comply with Obamacare's contraceptive mandate.

Now, the White House has a plan to ensure workers at these companies have access to contraceptives. The Obama administration wants to extend the accommodation for religious non-profits — where the health insurance plan, rather than the employer, foots the bill for birth control — to objecting for-profit organizations.

At a company like Hobby Lobby, for example, this would mean that the owners would notify the government of their objection to contraceptives. The Obama administration would then pass that information along to Hobby Lobby's health insurance plan, which would be responsible for paying for the birth control coverage.

This is a proposed rule that the Obama administration is seeking comment on, meaning it's not fully set in stone – and could change as what will likely be dozens, if not hundreds, of interested parties submit feedback.

More leeway for religious non-profits

The White House will also give more leeway to religious non-profits, like hospitals and colleges, that do not want to comply with the contraceptive mandate.

These non-profits will no longer be required to notify their health plan that they will not provide contraceptives, as preliminary regulations would have required. Instead, these employers will now only be required to notify the federal government of their objection and the government will have the responsibility of notifying the insurance plan.

This is the provision of the contraceptive mandate that Wheaton College brought before the Supreme Court recently, arguing that submitting this form makes the school complicit in the use of birth control even though they're not paying for it.

There are 50 other active court cases that have challenged the contraceptive mandate on these grounds.

In the Wheaton College case, justice Sonya Sotomayor had issued a scathing dissent arguing against this exact proposal. This round-about way of sending notices to health insurers, she charged, would create an unnecessary and unworkable layer of bureaucracy.

There is "no reason to think that the administrative scheme [Wheaton] foists on the government today is workable or effective on a national scale," she wrote.

The new regulation addresses some of Sotomayor's concern. In particular, it requires any company filing an objection to provide the federal government with the name and contact information for their health insurance plan. That should make it easier for the federal government to reach out to the insurance carrier without much legwork on its part.