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Contraceptive Coverage Legal Battle Looms for Missouri

Missouri lawmakers on Sept. 12 overrode Gov. Jay Nixon's veto of legislation that would allow employers and insurers to deny contraceptive coverage, setting the stage for yet another legal battle over contraceptive coverage.

September 14, 2012
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Missouri lawmakers on Sept. 12 overrode Gov. Jay Nixon's veto of legislation that would allow employers and insurers to deny contraceptive coverage, setting the stage for yet another legal battle over contraceptive coverage.

In fact, immediately following the legislative action, the Greater Kansas City Coalition of Labor Union Women filed suit in a Missouri circuit court seeking an injunction to block enforcement of the measure.

Under the measure, S.B. 749, employers, insurers or other health care plan sponsors cannot be compelled to provide coverage for contraceptives, abortion or sterilization "if such items or procedures are contrary" to their religious beliefs or moral convictions.

In his earlier veto message, Gov. Nixon said giving employers and insurers such power would take "the authority to make decisions about access to contraceptive coverage away from Missouri women" and families.

While the measure allows employers and insurers to opt out of providing the coverage if they have religious or moral objections, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services health care reform law-related regulations require most employers to begin offering full coverage for prescription contraceptives for plan years beginning on or after Aug. 1, 2012. For employers with calendar year plans, the requirement will take effect on Jan. 1, 2013.

In the case of nonprofit employers, such as hospitals and universities, that are affiliates of religious organizations, their health insurers will be required to offer the coverage at no cost. That part of the regulation would apply for plan years starting on or after Aug. 1, 2013.

However, numerous suits have been filed by Catholic or Catholic-related organizations to block the mandate. In the suit filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, the Archdiocese of Washington and several other organizations that joined the suit said the mandate would require Catholic entities to "violate their sincerely held religious beliefs."

In addition, Oklahoma City-based Hobby Lobby Stores Inc., a privately held, self-described Christian-owned and -operated retail chain, filed suit this week in federal court challenging the rules.

Jerry Geisel writes for Business Insurance, a sister publication of Workforce Management. To comment, email editors@workforce.com.

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