Supreme Court denies exemption to birth control mandate

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Arts and crafts chain Hobby Lobby was dealt another setback in its quest to overturn the health reform law's contraception coverage when U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor refused to temporarily exempt the store from the controversial provision.

Billionaire David Green and his family, who own Hobby Lobby and a Christian bookstore chain Mardel, requested the injunction so they wouldn't have to comply with the contraception provision, which requires that employers include coverage for birth control and other contraceptive methods within their health plans, while their lawsuit was still in progress, reported Reuters.

The family claims they could be fined as much as $1.3 million a day for their 13,000 employees working in more than 500 stores nationwide, MedPageToday reported.

But Sotomayor ruled that neither Hobby Lobby nor Mardel qualify for the exemption. "Applicants do not satisfy the demanding standard for the extraordinary relief they seek," Sotomayor wrote in her opinion. "Even without an injunction pending appeal, the applicants may continue their challenge to the regulations in the lower courts."

She added it's not "indisputably clear" that the companies deserve an injunction since lower courts have been divided on whether similar cases warrant temporary relief.

Despite the ruling, Hobby Lobby said it still refuses to provide its employees with contraception coverage, which it equates with abortion, the Associated Press reported. "The company will continue to provide health insurance to all qualified employees," Kyle Duncan, who is representing Hobby Lobby on behalf of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, said in a statement. "To remain true to their faith, it is not their intention, as a company, to pay for abortion-inducing drugs."

With the birth control coverage mandate, insurers must embrace the industry's shift from focusing on the diagnostic treatment of disease toward a foundation of disease prevention, FierceHealthPayer previously reported. Some payers also see the new mandate as an opportunity to avoid much higher costs later on, as maternity and neonatal care, for example, cost significantly more than contraceptives.

To learn more:
- here's the opinion (.pdf)
- read the Reuters article
- see the MedPageToday article
- check out the AP article

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