WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court has decided to weigh in on a case involving some employers’ religious objections to an Obama administration interpretation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).
Section 2713 of PPACA requires individual health insurance policies and group health plans to offer a basic preventive services package that includes “evidence-based items” recommended by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force and “such additional preventive care and screenings” for women that are backed by federal Health Resources and Services Administration guidelines.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) says the package must include coverage for contraceptive products and services. HHS has created an exemption for nonprofit religious institutions, but for-profit employers cannot use the exemption.
Roughly 40 for-profit companies have sued, arguing they should not be forced to cover some or all forms of birth control because doing so would violate their religious beliefs.
Both sides want the justices to settle an issue that has divided lower courts. The high court announced its decision to take up the topic today, following a closed-door meeting.
Arguments probably will take place in late March, with a decision expected in late June.
The White House put out a statement welcoming the Supreme Court’s decision to add the Hobby Lobby case to its to-do list.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said the Obama administration believes the justices will agree that the mandate is lawful and essential to women’s health.
The key issue is whether profit-making corporations can assert religious beliefs under the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Nearly four years ago, the justices expanded the concept of corporate “personhood,” saying in the Citizens United case that corporations have the right to participate in the political process the same way that individuals do.
The administration wants the court to hear its appeal of the Denver-based federal appeals court ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby, an Oklahoma City-based arts and crafts chain that calls itself a “biblically founded business” and is closed on Sundays.