Supreme Court to hear Obamacare contraception cases
The U.S. Supreme Court agreed on Tuesday to consider religious objections made by corporations to a provision of President Barack Obama's healthcare law that requires employers to provide health insurance that covers birth control.
Oral arguments will likely be scheduled for March, with a ruling due by June, in what will be one of the most high-profile issues before the court this term.
The so-called contraception mandate of the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, requires employers to provide health insurance policies that include preventive services for women that include access to contraception and sterilization.
The healthcare law has faced political and legal hurdles since Obama made it a signature policy on taking office in 2009. It came under scrutiny again this month because of the many problems individuals experienced trying to sign up for insurance via new online exchanges.
In June 2012, the justices upheld, on a 5-4 vote, the constitutionality of Obamacare's core feature that requires people to get health insurance.
The two cases the court agreed to hear are not a direct challenge to the contraception mandate itself. The question, which has no bearing on the broader fate of the healthcare law, is whether closely held companies owned by individuals who object to the provision on religious grounds can be exempted from the requirement. Religious institutions are exempted from the regulation.
Groups representing women's rights say a ruling in favor of the companies would make key preventive measures that Obamacare makes available for women for no out-of-pocket cost less widely available.
"If the Supreme Court decides for bosses rather than for women's health, far-reaching consequences could result," said Marcia Greenberger, co-president of the National Women's Law Center. "Women could find their bosses not only interfering in their private reproductive healthcare decisions, but other care as well."