Hobby Lobby Workaround Bill

July 8th, 2014

The Senate Democrats have proposed a new bill that would, in essence, reverse Hobby Lobby:

Ms. Murray’s bill criticizes the Supreme Court’s majority opinion and repudiates it by declaring that “employers may not discriminate against their female employees” in coverage of preventive health services.

To this end, it says that an employer “shall not deny coverage of a specific health care item or service” where coverage is required under any provision of federal law. Moreover, it says, this requirement shall apply to employers notwithstanding the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

The bill would not amend that law. It explicitly preserves federal rules that provide an exemption for churches and other houses of worship that have religious objections to providing coverage for some or all contraceptives.

In addition, the bill preserves an “accommodation” devised by President Obama for nonprofit religious organizations, like colleges, hospitals and charities, that have religious objections.

The odds of this passing the House are close to zero. It is curious why the President, for once, has decided not to use executive power to solve this problem. After all, the mandate to purchase certain forms of contraception, and the subsequent exemptions, were products of HHS regulation, and not the ACA itself.