The Obama administration has finally announced its workaround for women affected by the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby decision. Women employed by closely-held for profit companies that opt-out of certain kinds of birth control will be able to obtain coverage directly from their insurer. This workaround is the same alternative in place for religious non-profit organizations and, as several people noted earlier this summer, the Supreme Court's ruling on the matter suggested the administration simply offer the same accommodation to for-profits.
“Today’s announcement reinforces our commitment to providing women with access to coverage for contraception, while respecting religious considerations raised by non-profit organizations and closely held for-profit companies," Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell told reporters. The plan would also allow religious non-profits like hospitals and Catholic schools to opt out of birth control coverage by contacting HHS, not their insurance company.
Sarah Kliff at Vox notes that this is just a proposed rule, meaning the White House is still seeking comment on it. One group that may have something to say on the matter is the network of third-party administrators who the government hasn't figured out how to pay.
As Alex Wayne at Bloomberg explained, a third-party administrator of a health plan is supposed to team up with an insurer that covers the objectionable birth control methods. The government pays the insurer and the insurer pays the administrators. The problem is that insurers haven't been eager to team up with administrators, and the government hasn't figured out how to pay them directly.
The need for a Hobby Lobby workaround came in June, when the Supreme Court ruled that closely-held corporations like Hobby Lobby have the right to hold and exercise religious beliefs, and that Obamacare's birth control mandate violated that right. Hobby Lobby's owners believe that certain kinds of birth control are abortion-causing drugs, though the science behind that claim is questionable, at best.
But part of the reason the government lost the case was because of the accommodation that was already in place for non-profits. the government had basically proved there was a way to provide birth control without infringing on the rights of religious non-profits. The Supreme Court suggested offering that same plan to for-profits would be acceptable, and that's what the administration is proposing to do now. Whether that alternative is viable is another question.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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