Sens. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Mark Udall (D-Colo.) on Tuesday introduced new legislation to counter the debated Supreme Court Hobby Lobby decision, which favored religious exemptions to certain contraception methods.
The court ruled that the contraception mandate violated the 1993 Religious Freedom and Restoration Act. It held that the mandate substantially burdens the exercise of religion and that the Affordable Care Act didnt use the least restrictive means to promote this government interest, tests required by RFRA.
Now, Senate Democrats want to clarify the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act in a way that would force companies to pay for birth control, contraception and abortion-inducing drugs.
Udall and Murray say their legislation, the Protect Womens Health from Corporate Interference Act, would ban employers from refusing to provide health coverage including contraceptive coverage guaranteed to their employees and dependents under federal law.
The nine-page bill aims to remain consistent with the RFRA, in that an employers group health plan cannot deny coverage of specific health care items or services where coverage of such items or services is required under any provision of the Federal law. One expert with Buck Consultants says that while it may be able to pass the Senate, there is little future in the House.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) praised the courts ruling in a July 1 statement. The decision is a victory for religious freedom and another defeat for an administration that has repeatedly crossed constitutional lines in pursuit of its Big Government objectives, he says.
Still, Sharon Cohen, a principal with Buck Consultants, says there has been some, if only a little, reaction from her clients seeking answers on the political dramas effect on employee health benefits.
Its important to stay on top of the issue, not necessarily because its a burning issue for every employer, but there is a lot of media attention, she says. While the impact has had constitutional implications, it hasnt had as significant an impact on an employer in their daily benefits functions, she adds.
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