How Will Hobby Lobby Affect Obamacare? The Experts Weigh In

Demonstrator react to hearing the Supreme Court's decision on the Hobby Lobby case outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Monday, June 30, 2014. The Supreme Court says corporations can hold religious objections that allow them to opt out of the new health law requirement that they cover contraceptives for women.(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

We asked the Field Clinic's panel of experts for reactions to the Supeme Court's decision on the Obamacare contraceptive mandate.  Here is what they had to say.

Antoinette Kraus - Director of the Pennsylvania Health Access Network

Hobby Lobby is a disappointing ruling that will prevent some women, especially those working hourly-wage jobs and struggling to make ends meet, from getting affordable birth control.

Contraception is an important benefit used by 99% of women at some point in their lives both for family planning and for medical reasons like endometriosis. Strong majorities support insurance coverage for contraception.A recent poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation found that people support the law’s requirement for contraceptive coverage at nearly a 2-1 margin.

This ruling does not strike down the Affordable Care Act’s birth control benefit. Today, more than 30 million women are eligible for birth control with no co-pay thanks to this benefit, and the vast majority of them will not be affected by this ruling. But for those who are affected, this ruling will have real consequences.

Bosses should not be able to interfere with a woman’s access to affordable contraception. Health care decisions should be made by a woman and her doctor, not her boss.

Robert Doherty - Senior Vice President of Governmental Affairs & Public Policy, American College of Physicians

The Supreme Court’s decision clearly opens the door for other for-profit  companies to challenge the ACA’s coverage requirements on the basis that they conflict with their owners’ religious beliefs. How many could potentially seek a religious exemption from the coverage mandates?

Well, such “closely held” companies represent 90% of all businesses, employing 52% of the American workforce.  Most of them, of course, are not likely to seek a religious exemption from specific coverage requirements, and not all of them will prevail in court if they do.  But some will, perhaps for ideological reasons masquerading as a religious belief.

So the Supreme Court decision isn’t just about women’s access to contraception, which would be reason enough to be concerned,  (It is astounding to me that in 2014, women’s access to contraception is even considered to be a subject of debate).  It is about whether employers that have religious objections to the ACA’s coverage mandates will be allowed to pick and choose which services to cover—excluding contraception today, maybe seeking to exclude vaccines or blood transfusions tomorrow, notwithstanding the Supreme Court’s assurances that the current decision does not “necessarily” apply to the other coverage requirements.

The result of the Supreme Court’s ruling may be a “Swiss Cheese” system where individual companies will be able to choose what they want to cover, based on the religious beliefs of their owners, rather than the ACA’s promise of guaranteed levels of coverage for everyone, regardless of where you work.   

Howard Peterson - Managing Partner of TRG Healthcare, a national healthcare consulting firm

The Supreme Court’s decision announced Monday regarding Hobby Lobby seemed like a reasonable balance between providing health benefits to women and the religious rights of individuals. The reaction, however, is to inflame the uninformed public. The left declares this an action denying basic rights to women when it only limits contraception methods that terminate a fertilized embryo. The right sees it a broad decision slapping the hands of the President for his overreaching of the powers of the Executive.

We have little hope of solving the problems of our Country until public leaders (there is no hope for pundants) engage in more factual commentary and help the public understand what really has been decided and how it effects them. Unfortunately, the present condition is likely to continue through 2016. The only real hope is that we as individuals begin to change the dialogue among ourselves and demonstrate collectively to our leaders the value of civil behavior.

Paula Stillman - Healthcare consultant with special expertise in population health and disease management

I am very dismayed by the Supreme Court's ruling in the Hobby Lobby case.  Conservatives often argue against big government and propose that there be less governmental intrusion into our personal lives.  This decision is a severe impingement on the rights of women.  Besides being used for contraception, many women use birth control pills for other medical reasons.  This decision is a strike against contraception and permits a corporation to dictate to physicians how to practice medicine.