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Supreme Court ruling not a huge threat to birth control

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By The Associated Press
Friday, July 4, 2014, 8:57 p.m.
 

NEW YORK — Don't expect a wave of companies to stop paying for employees' contraceptives after this week's Supreme Court decision allowing some businesses to refuse to cover birth control.

Some business owners say they won't pay for any forms of contraception. Others say they'll continue paying for most types, but not those that take effect after conception and that some people believe are akin to abortion.

But while the ruling applies to many of the country's businesses, in reality, relatively few workers are likely to lose all contraceptive coverage. Many companies of all sizes paid for contraception by choice, even before the Affordable Care Act required it, believing it's an important benefit that helps them attract and retain good workers. A survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation found 85 percent of large employers paid for contraceptives before the health care law required it.

Even employers who want to opt out of some forms of birth-control coverage see covering others as important.

“We want to provide for good health care for our people. We just don't want to fund abortive procedures,” said Mike Sharrow, owner of C12 Group in San Antonio. His company, which provides faith-based counseling for business owners, has always paid for what he calls traditional forms of contraception, such as birth-control pills.

The Supreme Court ruled on Monday that some businesses can, because of their religious beliefs, choose not to comply with the health care law's requirement that contraception coverage be provided to workers at no extra charge. The 5-4 ruling has the Obama administration looking for another way to provide contraception for women who work for those companies.

The ruling applies to businesses that are closely held, with five or fewer individuals owning more than 50 percent of the company's stock. By some estimates, 90 percent of businesses are closely held and employ about half of the nation's work force.

Business owners interviewed by The Associated Press that wanted to opt out of contraceptive coverage said their insurers were still trying to figure out how to change their policies. It's possible employees might still be able to get birth-control coverage through their plans but pay for that portion of their insurance themselves.

The contraceptives at issue in the court's decision are two known as morning-after pills, the emergency contraceptives Plan B and ella; and two intrauterine devices, which are implantable devices inserted into the uterus to prevent pregnancy. Many owners objected to them because they're designed to work after conception occurs. However, on Tuesday, the court left in place lower court rulings in other cases that allowed businesses to refuse to pay for all methods of government-approved contraception.

The case decided by the Supreme Court on Monday involved two companies, Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. About 50 others also filed suit against the health care law's contraception requirement. Some received court injunctions allowing them not to pay for birth control; the Supreme Court's ruling is expected to allow them to continue that policy.

Triune Health Group Ltd. has been in touch with its broker to see how soon it can change its coverage to stop paying for all contraceptives, said Mary Anne Yep, co-owner of the Oak Brook, Ill., company that provides medical management services.

“We were ready to go when we heard the decision,” she said. Triune had filed lawsuits against the U.S. government and the state of Illinois because of requirements that they pay for contraception.

Weingartz Inc., which has five stores in Michigan selling lawn mowers and other outdoor equipment, stopped paying for all contraception, except when medically needed, since it won an injunction.

“We don't believe anybody else shouldn't have access to it. We just can't pay for it,” said Dan Weingartz, the company's president.

Christian publisher Tyndale House Publishers Inc., which filed a lawsuit, expects the Supreme Court ruling to clear the way for it to stop paying for morning-after pills and IUDs.

“We believe that those family businesses should have the religious freedom not to offer abortion-causing items through their employee health-care program,” Tyndale CEO Mark Taylor said in a statement. The Carol Stream, Ill., company publishes Christian books.

The businesses contacted by the AP all said their greatest concern was the government forcing them to pay for something that goes against their religious beliefs.

“Framing this as an issue of contraception is wrong. It's a battle against bullying by the government, telling us what to do,” said Yep, the Triune Health Group owner.

 

 
 


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