The case was Bur­well vs Hob­by Lob­by.  To put it sim­ply, the Supreme Court ruled that “close­ly held (sor­ry Gen­er­al Motors) for prof­it com­pa­nies can, on reli­gious grounds, opt out of a fed­er­al require­ment to pro­vide cer­tain con­tra­cep­tion cov­er­age.  Of course, they did not exact­ly define what “close­ly held” meant (but as Jus­tice Pot­ter Stew­art once said “I’ll know it when I see it”).  Pub­licly trad­ed com­pa­nies, of course, are not.

With a lit­tle more ambi­gu­i­ty, the Supreme Court gave tem­po­rary relief to Wheaton Col­lege, rul­ing “it does not for now have to com­ply with the Oba­ma administration’s require­ment that it fill out a form to reg­is­ter reli­gious objec­tions to pro­vid­ing some types of con­tra­cep­tive cov­er­age man­dat­ed by the Afford­able Care Act”  What is odd about this is that the male jus­tices tried to sneak it through, but the female jus­tices were furi­ous, claim­ing that, while they were a part of the Hob­by Lob­by deci­sion, this did not mean that they were open­ing the door for oth­er exemp­tions, espe­cial­ly those that had not been ful­ly heard.

Con­se­quences?  Well oth­er than chang­ing employ­ee hand­books, try­ing to explain moral and reli­gious con­vic­tions to employ­ees, the poten­tial ero­sion of ACA cred­i­bil­i­ty and the open­ing of fur­ther “reli­gious grounds” chal­lenges for oth­er fed­er­al laws, not much.  There are also at least four dozen sim­i­lar faith based law­suits now under con­sid­er­a­tion.  But in this case…

No soon­er was the Supreme Court rul­ing issued that Democ­rats released a bill to over­turn it.  They devel­oped this to “ensure that women have access to cov­er­age for birth con­trol even if they work for busi­ness­es that have reli­gious objec­tions”. In oth­er words, they want the ACA to do what it said it would (mean­ing cov­er­ing con­tra­cep­tion) and they won’t lis­ten to the Supreme Court say oth­er­wise.  The bill failed.

One legal firm, com­ment­ing on the rul­ing, said “the Court indi­cat­ed it may not pro­vide the Admin­is­tra­tion much lee­way in its imple­men­ta­tion of the ACA where such imple­men­ta­tion impacts and is led by oth­er Fed­er­al rights”

Note that the rul­ing does not apply to state laws, which means that ful­ly insured plans are essen­tial­ly exempt from the Court rul­ing because they are sub­ject to state and not fed­er­al reg­u­la­tions (for the most part)

Over­all, the gen­er­al impli­ca­tions, or lack of same, are:

  1. The deci­sion is lim­it­ed to cov­er­age of con­tra­cep­tion with­out cost shar­ing under the ACA pre­ven­tive care mandate
  2. The Supreme Court did not address the appli­ca­tion of the deci­sion to pub­licly trad­ed companies
  3. Employ­ees may still be able to access all FDA approved forms of con­tra­cep­tion with­out cost shar­ing, but not with­out addi­tion­al reg­u­la­to­ry action
  4. Plan fund­ing may lim­it an employ­er with sin­cere reli­gious objec­tions from “carv­ing out” cer­tain types of contraception