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Hobby Lobby Lawsuit Seeks to Block Enforcement of HHS Contraceptive Coverage Rule

Oklahoma City-based Hobby Lobby Stores, a privately held, self-described Christian-owned and -operated retail chain with more than 500 stores and 22,500 employees in 41 states, says it is the first non-Catholic owned business to challenge the HHS edict.

September 12, 2012
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Hobby Lobby Stores Inc. filed suit Sept. 12 in federal court to stop enforcement of a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services rule requiring most employers to provide coverage of prescription contraceptives.

Oklahoma City-based Hobby Lobby Stores, a privately held, self-described Christian-owned and -operated retail chain with more than 500 stores and 22,500 employees in 41 states, says it is the first non-Catholic owned business to challenge the HHS edict.

Under that rule, the coverage requirement for most employers goes into effect for plan years that begin on or after Aug. 1, 2012. For not-for-profit affiliates of religious organizations, the requirement applies for plan years that begin on or after Aug. 1, 2013.

Religious organizations, such as churches that primarily employ those with the same beliefs, are exempt from the mandate.

In its suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma, Hobby Lobby, which is self-insured, said the religious beliefs of the family that owns Hobby Lobby "prohibit them from deliberately providing insurance coverage for prescription drugs or devices inconsistent with their faith, in particular abortion-causing drugs and devices."

"We cannot abandon our beliefs to comply with this mandate," Hobby Lobby founder and CEO David Green said in a conference call with reporters.

Previously, more than 40 Catholic organizations, including the archdioceses of New York and Washington, as well as Catholic University of America, filed suit in federal courts to block implementation of the rule. All these cases are pending.

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

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