Burwell v. Hobby Lobby deals blow to ACA

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July 1, 2014

By Phil Heidenreich

U.S. Supreme Court

Washington, D.C.: The U.S. Supreme Court dealt the first significant legal blow to the administration's Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act with a ruling on June 30, 2014. The ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby allowed companies to opt out of offering insurance coverage for contraceptives on the basis of religious beliefs by a vote of 5-4.[1]

The case was heard by the Court on March 25, 2014, after both Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties appealed earlier rulings in a joint argument before the Supreme Court.[2] Justice Samuel Alito wrote the court's opinion, stating, "We doubt that the Congress that enacted RFRA — or, for that matter, ACA–would have believed it a tolerable result to put family-run businesses to the choice of violating their sincerely held religious beliefs or making all of their employees lose their existing healthcare plans."[1] Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy and Clarence Thomas voted in the majority.

Dissenting Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg claimed the ruling would allow companies to "opt out of any law (saving only tax laws) they judge incompatible with their sincerely held religious beliefs." Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Stephen Breyer were the fellow dissenting justices. Likewise, the Obama administration argued that companies that did not wish to provide the contraceptive coverage or other areas of coverage due to religious beliefs could decide not to provide any company-wide options.[1]

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