KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Viewpoints: Hobby Lobby Decision Celebrated And Panned; Gender And Religious Politics Explored

Los Angeles Times: Hobby Lobby ruling: Bad For Women's Rights, Bad For The Religious Freedom Restoration Act
In ruling 5 to 4 that "closely held" companies can refuse on religious grounds to include contraceptives in their employees' health plans, the Supreme Court has needlessly interfered with an important provision of the Affordable Care Act. And it has done more than that (7/1).

The New York Times: Limiting Rights: Imposing Religion On Workers
The Supreme Court’s deeply dismaying decision on Monday in the Hobby Lobby case swept aside accepted principles of corporate law and religious liberty to grant owners of closely held, for-profit companies an unprecedented right to impose their religious views on employees (6/30).

The Wall Street Journal: Religious Liberty Affirmed 
Judging by the liberal reaction, you would think the Supreme Court majority that struck down part of ObamaCare's birth-control mandate on Monday has suddenly imposed Shariah law. Yet as a matter of law rather than political opportunism, the narrow decision is an important vindication of religious liberty in this (still, blessedly) pluralistic constitutional republic (6/30).

The Washington Post: Congress Should Narrow The Religious Freedom Restoration Act 
Justice Alito discouraged speculation that the court’s decision will lead to the weakening of other public health mandates, such as those covering vaccines or blood transfusions. Even if corporations enjoy religious protections, he wrote, the court must apply a balancing test before requiring exceptions, a balancing test the contraception mandate — and, at this point, only the contraception mandate — did not pass. But that balancing test may be tough for the government to satisfy in other circumstances, too, if it is applied as aggressively as the court did in this instance. ... If this is the sort of balancing that the Supreme Court will conduct, Congress should change the law (6/30).

USA Today: Hobby Lobby Decision Creates A Minefield: Our View 
The most generous reading of the Supreme Court's 5-4 decision Monday in the so-called Hobby Lobby case is that it narrowly upheld the right of deeply religious business owners not to be forced by the government to violate their beliefs. The majority took pains to say how limited the decision is. ... But in even raising these issues, the court crossed a new threshold, extending legal guarantees of religious freedom to for-profit businesses, with uncertain and potentially troubling consequences (6/30).

USA Today: Justices Uphold Religious Freedom: Opposing View 
The Supreme Court's decision does not open a can of worms. It is a specific interpretation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a federal law. The merits of future cases will be carefully determined, as done by the court for centuries, on a case-by-case basis. Undeniably, religious freedom is a basic human right. When it comes to issues of religion in our country, we expect two things from our government: tolerance and evenhanded justice. The contraception mandate never came close to satisfying either. It forced Americans to violate their religious beliefs under threat of devastating fines (Erin Mersino, 6/30).

The Boston Globe: Supreme Court Loses Its Way In Vague Contraceptive Decision
The Supreme Court decision on Monday that curtailed the federal rule requiring some big employers to provide contraceptive coverage in their health insurance plans was a setback for employees, but hopefully not a calamity. The much-anticipated ruling in the Burwell v. Hobby Lobby case limited the mandate, but spelled out a way for the federal government to provide contraceptive coverage for affected employees anyway. Doing so would uphold the law’s overriding goal: ensuring that Americans have equal access to adequate reproductive health care. Still, the ruling holds the potential to create great mischief by keeping alive the flawed legal notion that companies can pick and choose which laws to follow so long as they cite a religious justification (6/30).

The New York Times' Room For Debate: Congress, Religion And The Court
The Supreme Court ruled on Monday that requiring family-owned corporations to pay for insurance coverage for contraception under the Affordable Care Act violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. That act requires that federal laws meet stringent standards if they interfere with religious practices. Does that go too far in protecting those rights? (6/30).

The New York Times: The Political Repercussions Of The Hobby Lobby Decision
Normally it’s not a good idea to jump right into the political implications of a major Supreme Court decision like Hobby Lobby, but in this case there’s no point in waiting. This was a political decision and it is absolutely proper for Democrats to use it as a weapon in the midterm election campaign (David Firestone, 6/30). 

The New York Times: How Hobby Lobby Ruling Could Limit Access to Birth Control
The Supreme Court ruling in the Hobby Lobby case raises at least two questions: How will it affect access to contraception, and what do the drugs and devices the company objected to on religious grounds actually do? A growing body of evidence shows that it is already hard to obtain certain kinds of contraception, and the ruling seems likely to increase barriers (Aaron E. Carroll, 6/30).

The Washington Post: Hobby Lobby Should Walk The Moral Path It Talks About
Okay, Hobby Lobby. You can still fix this. There’s one way to come out of this looking decent, walking that righteous, pious, moral path you talk about. The Supreme Court has decided that you have the right to deny covering contraception for thousands of your female employees. Now you should provide the most fantastic, bang-up, paid and protected parental leave in the United States (Petula Dvorak, 6/30).

The Washington Post: In Hobby Lobby Ruling, The Supreme Court Uses A 'Fiction'
Mitt Romney said it, and on Monday the Supreme Court upheld it: Corporations are people, my friend. ... In its last day in session, the high court not only affirmed corporate personhood but expanded the human rights of corporations, who by some measures enjoy more protections than mortals -- or "natural persons," as the court calls the type of people who do not incorporate in Delaware. In 2010, the court ruled that corporations are people for the purposes of making unrestricted political contributions. Now, the court has decided that some corporations have religious beliefs, just like other people (Dana Milbank, 6/30).

The Washington Post: Sandra Fluke: The Hobby Lobby Case Is An Attack On Women
Today’s cases weren’t about those types of religious organizations. They were about privately owned, closely held, for-profit corporations. Today, the Court ruled that such corporations have religious rights under federal statute, just as individuals do. Corporations are not people. Corporations cannot have religious views. And this decision sends us in a dangerous direction (Sandra Fluke, 6/30). 

The Wall Street Journal: What Women Think Of The Core Issue In The Hobby Lobby Case
The Supreme Court decision upholding Hobby Lobby’s ability to refuse to cover certain contraceptive services based on its owners’ religious beliefs has set off a wave of analysis of what the decision means. That will not be resolved anytime soon. But we do know what women think of the policy issue at the core of the case. Overall, by a margin of 59% to 35%, women oppose the idea of letting companies deny coverage of contraceptives based on their owners’ religious beliefs. But women’s views on this issue–studied in the Kaiser Family Foundation Health Tracking Poll last month–differ by party, ideology and their religion (Drew Altman, 6/30).

The Washington Post's Plum Line blog: The Common Thread Of Supreme Court Decisions: You’re On Your Own
Although the Supreme Court’s decision in the Hobby Lobby case is getting most of the attention today, the other major case the justices decided, regarding public-sector unions, could prove to be even more significant. And in both cases, the court had a common message: You’re on your own (Paul Waldman, 6/30). 

Los Angeles Times: The Craziest Thing About The Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby Decision
But something else is troublesome about the case, at least to me. And that is the idea that the justices simply accepted without question the claim by the Greens, a Christian family who own the Hobby Lobby chain of craft stores, that the four types of birth control they refuse to cover -- two kinds of IUDs and two morning-after pills -- cause abortion. They do not (Robin Abcarian, 6/30).

Los Angeles Times: Get Ready For An Even Bigger Threat To Obamacare
Now that the Supreme Court has issued its ruling in the Hobby Lobby case, the legal fight over the Affordable Care Act will shift a few blocks away to another Washington courtroom, where a far more fundamental challenge to Obamacare is about to be decided by the powerful U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Indeed, if Hobby Lobby will create complications for Obamacare, Halbig vs. Burwell could trigger a full cardiac arrest (Jonathan Turley, 6/30).

Los Angeles Times: The Broad Reach Of The Narrow Hobby Lobby Ruling
The Supreme Court's decision striking down the contraceptive mandate for family-owned businesses seems narrow, but its implications are broad and disturbing. The Supreme Court, in a 5-4 ruling Monday, held that it violated the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act to require that a family-owned business, technically called a "closely held" corporation, include contraceptive coverage for women in the insurance it provides its employees (Erwin Chemerinsky, 6/30).

Los Angeles Times: Alito Agrees: Your Birth Control Is Not Your Boss' Business
Abortion-rights protesters gathered outside the Supreme Court on Monday holding signs that read "Birth Control: Not My Boss's Business." Much to their chagrin, Supreme Court Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. agreed in his ruling in the Hobby Lobby case. Of course, that's not how supporters of the government's contraception mandate see it. They actually believe that birth control is their boss' business, and they want the federal government to force employers to agree (Jonah Goldberg, 6/30).

Fox News: Hobby Lobby Ruling: Why Supreme Court Got It Right
Monday’s ruling in the case of Sebelius vs. Hobby Lobby is an important victory for religious liberty for people of all faiths, regardless of what secularists will argue in their criticism of the Supreme Court’s decision. Liberals have tried to obfuscate the real issue in the case by insisting that it was about the merits of employer-mandated healthcare, the propriety of contraception, or the right of a woman to have an abortion.  In reality, Hobby Lobby already provided health care for its employees. Additionally, the company’s insurance covers 16 of the 20 contraceptives required under the HHS mandate (Robert Jeffress, 6/30).

And on other issues-

The New York Times: Limiting Rights: A Hit To Collective Bargaining
In Harris v. Quinn, eight home-care aides, who are paid by their customers with Medicaid funds, challenged an Illinois law that required them to pay what are known as “fair share” fees to the Service Employees International Union, even though they had chosen not to join the union. The union — which is legally compelled to represent both members and nonmembers — used those fees (which are less than members’ dues) to negotiate on the aides’ behalf for higher wages and other benefits. Under this common arrangement, everybody won: Illinois’ 20,000-plus home-care aides, who have been among the poorest-paid workers, saw their hourly wages rise from $7 in 2003 to $13 in 2014. They got state-financed health insurance, better training and more protective workplace-safety measures. Meanwhile, the state avoided the high costs of institutionalizing their customers (6/30).

The New York Times: Renouncing Corporate Citizenship
The same chief executive who said he was so "proud of our Illinois heritage" is now considering moving the company’s headquarters to Switzerland as part of a merger with Alliance Boots, a European drugstore chain. Why? To lower Walgreen’s tax bill even further. ... In Walgreen’s case, an inversion would be an affront to United States taxpayers. The company, which also owns the Duane Reade chain in New York, reaps almost a quarter of its $72 billion in revenue directly from the government; it received $16.7 billion from Medicare and Medicaid last year (Andrew Ross Sorkin, 6/30).

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Ending The Cycle Of Poverty And Poor Health
Health disparities in our community are undeniable. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's "Poor Health" series of special reports highlights the complex economic and social factors that influence health care delivery and determine health outcomes — especially for low-income individuals and people of color. Indeed, research and our community's experience have shown that there is a direct link between poverty, racism and poor health (Cathy Jacobson and Joy Tapper, 6/30).

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