How does the Supreme Court Ruling Impact the Affordable Care Act?

On November 26, 2013, the Supreme Court agreed to hear two cases that involve for-profit corporations. The Court agreed to hear a case from the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby, an Oklahoma-based chain of craft stores owned by a Christian family who claim that the contraceptive coverage requirement violates their company’s religious freedom. The Court also agreed to hear a case from the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled against the corporation and its owners, finding that Conestoga Wood Specialties, a cabinet manufacturer, does not have religious rights.

The Supreme Court determined that for-profit corporations have protections under the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). In its June, 2014 ruling the Supreme Court of the United States determined that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) violated RFRA  interpreting the “employer” as a “person” capable of religious belief. The Court also determined that the owners rights were violated by a government regulation imposed on the corporation. 

The legal entity of a corporation is broadly defined as a “person” and therefore have First Amendment rights. The Supreme Court ruled that the government did not meet its healthcare mandate in the least restrictive way. The future implications to this ruling are broad and could lead to future challenges with broadened ramifications for civil rights protections in the workplace. Currently, an employer can be fined if they do not offer affordable health coverage with the 12 essential benefits as stipulated in the Affordable Care Act of 2010 (ACA). There are currently over 40 cases pending which challenge the Act. Small employers with less than 50 full time equivalent employees are exempt from the ACA. Large employers will start to receive penalties for non-compliance beginning in 2015.

Source: Kaiser Family Foundation,

© Carmen Coleman, President and CEO
Lifetime Financial Group, LLC
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