The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

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Opinion

July 7, 2014

Hobby Lobby case exposes systemic problems

The Supreme Court’s ruling in the Hobby Lobby case last week illuminates the flaws in an employer-based health insurance system.

The Affordable Care Act came with a mandate that employer-based health insurance plans cover birth control. That sparked a firestorm of objections, primarily from church-based entities. The Obama administration responded by offering an exemption for religious-affiliated nonprofit employers, like churches and Catholic schools and hospitals. Some private businesses sought an exemption on similar religious objections, and one, privately owned crafts retailer Hobby Lobby, took it all the way to the nation’s highest court.

The Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, sided with Hobby Lobby, agreeing that the Obamacare mandate regarding birth control constituted a violation of the owners’ right to religious freedom.

Now it’s the employees who feel as though their rights have been trampled.

This is one of the unintended consequences of the forced linkage of employer benefits and government mandates. Time was, having the employer pick up the tab (or a chunk of it) for health insurance was considered a perk. Then it became an expectation. Now Obamacare made it a requirement.

Not surprisingly, employers are pushing back, and employees are unhappy when there are limitations put on their coverage.

(By the way, more than a decade ago, Iowa passed a law implementing a similar mandate for birth control in health plans.

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