Obama admin offers compromise to end contraception coverage debate

The Obama administration has proposed a compromise in the battle over birth control coverage: Companies with religious affiliations could be exempt from providing health insurance coverage for contraceptives as long as the women can get coverage elsewhere.

Facing the distinct possibility of a 4-4 tie in Zubik v. Burwell, Supreme Court justices two weeks ago issued a rare order directing each side to submit briefs outlining a potential compromise.

In his response, Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. told the Supreme Court that existing modifications created under other rulings should suffice, and that a modification would only be acceptable if the Court also ruled that it satisfied the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, setting a precedent that would put an end to further legal wrangling.

Anything less "would lead to years of additional litigation, during which tens of thousands of women would likely continue to be denied the coverage to which they are legally entitled," he wrote.

The Little Sisters of the Poor provided their own filing, saying they were open to compromise, if that compromise truly left religious groups out of the process, and if employees "could receive cost-free contraceptive coverage through the same insurance company that would not require further involvement by the petitioner, including the way described in the court's order."

As previously reported by FierceHealthPayer, the accommodation mandated that petitioners tell the government that they object to coverage and allow the government to work with their insurers to provide the birth control coverage without their involvement or financial support. The Little Sisters of the Poor pointed out that if the court order passed, they would not actually be involved in the mandate, since "the commercial insurer would be complying with a separate mandate imposed by the federal government."

To learn more:
- read the Solicitor's filing
- read the Little Sisters' filing

Related Articles:
Supreme Court seeks alternative in contraception case
Ruling could trigger new Supreme Court review of contraceptive mandate
Opening arguments in ACA contraception case hint at deadlock