APHA and the National Health Law Program, or NHeLP, broke down the public health impact of Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. Photo by APHA

On July 1 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., that certain corporations can limit employee access to key women’s contraceptive coverage. In a webinar last week APHA and the National Health Law Program, or NHeLP, detailed the decision’s impact on public health.

“The immediate challenge, in the aftermath of the Court’s ruling, is to address the health needs of women affected and potentially affected by the decision,” NHeLP Executive Director Elizabeth Taylor wrote in a blog for The Huffington Post. “Nearly 100 employers have pending suits similar to Hobby Lobby, and many more could exercise their newly-declared ‘religious rights,’ leaving potentially millions of women without easy access to contraception.”

According to NHeLP Attorney Dipti Singh, most employer health plans still have to cover contraception — and all other preventive services — without burdening employees with costs. Additionally, the decision does not impact Medicaid or other publicly-funded programs.

The court’s decision also does not interfere with state laws. Twenty-six states have laws requiring insurers that cover prescription drugs to cover contraception. However, state laws often do not require coverage of all contraceptive methods approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Susan Berke Fogel, NHeLP’s director of reproductive health, described several noteworthy state contraceptive equity efforts, including:

  • California, which introduced a statute that would require coverage to include all prescribed and FDA-approved contraceptive drugs, devices and products, as well as voluntary sterilization procedures, and would prohibit cost-sharing requirements;
  • New York, which proposed a bill to require employers to give 90 days written notice to employees before changing any contraceptive coverage, and also inform prospective employees of the scope of any contraceptive coverage they offer; and
  • Ohio, which will soon introduce legislation requiring small and mid-size companies to include coverage for the full range of women’s contraception.

Check out in-depth coverage of the Supreme Court ruling on APHA’s Storify. And visit the National Women’s Law Center to help patients eliminate out-of-pocket expenditures for birth control and other health care needs.