HOBBY LOBBY AND THE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT: WHAT IT MEANS TO ALL OF US

June 30th, 2014 1:35 pm

On March 25th, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in the Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby, Inc.  The issue is whether owners of a secular for-profit corporation have to comply with all the requirements of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) if some of those requirements conflict with the owners’ religious beliefs.

Hobby Lobby is a chain of nearly 650 arts and crafts stores and has more than 28,000 employees.  It is owned by the Green family and headquartered in Oklahoma City.  They are devout Southern Baptists and their goal is to run their business by Christian values.  The Greens accept almost all of the ACA health insurance requirements, except for emergency contraceptives (such as Plan B and IUD’s) which they contend are akin to abortion. 

Hobby Lobby contends it is protected under the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act (Public Law 103-141) which states that the federal government shall not “substantially burden” a person’s (emphasis added) exercise of religion unless the government has a compelling interest to override such exercise.

Let’s be clear. The Affordable Care Act grants exemptions for purely religious organizations, such as churches, and provides work-arounds for religiously-affiliated institutions, such as Catholic hospitals and universities.  Hobby Lobby is a privately-held for-profit (emphasis added) corporation successfully operating in the private market place. 

Let’s also be clear that Hobby Lobby is not objecting to covering all of the required methods of contraception (all FDA-approved methods), just four of those methods which Hobby Lobby’s owners consider abortifacients (inducing miscarriages).  Hobby Lobby can opt out of providing health insurance to its employees by paying a $2000 penalty/employee which is cheaper than providing health insurance for its employees (@$5600/year individual, @$15,700/year family, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation). Hobby Lobby contends that offering health insurance keeps it competitive to let it attract good workers. 

While the case has revolved around Hobby Lobby’s ‘religious rights’, few people have discussed the rights of its women employees to complete health care coverage.  Are their rights being abridged by Hobby Lobby’s owners’ beliefs?

When did an artificial creation, the corporation, become a person with First Amendment rights?  

Hobby Lobby is a privately-held corporation which may influence, and perhaps limit, the court’s decision.  If not, a slippery slope may well become a cliff.