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New Poll Finds Overwhelming Support For Affordable Care Act’s Contraception Coverage

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By a nearly two-to-one margin, the public supports the health law’s requirement that private health plans cover prescription birth control without cost-sharing, according to a poll released Tuesday.

The provision, which is at the heart of a case being weighed by the Supreme Court, was endorsed 61 to 32 percent and was most popular among women, younger adults, Democrats and independents, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s monthly tracking poll.

In addition, the poll found that over half of those surveyed say that for-profit companies whose owners have religious objections to birth control should still be required to cover it.  The high court is expected to rule by June on whether for-profit employers are entitled to a religious exemption from the mandate.

Under the constitutional freedom of religion statute, for-profit corporations are not considered to be religious organizations. Although the Obama administration has allowed churches to opt out of the mandate and offered special arrangements for Catholic-affiliated universities, hospitals and charities, several for-profit companies are still trying to avoid following the law.

In March, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments from Hobby Lobby craft store and Conestoga Wood, the two companies claiming the contraception mandate violates their religious beliefs. If Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood are successful in their legal battle, it could open up the door for businesses across the country to start chipping away at their workers’ insurance benefits. There’s no telling exactly how many companies would attempt to employ the same “religious freedom” arguments to deny their employees coverage for certain health services.

But it is pretty apparent who will be affected first: The people who work at the dozens of other companies that tried to get their birth control objections in front of the Supreme Court.

Since the spring of 2012, 71 other companies have attempted to challenge Obamacare’s birth control provision in court. Gretchen Borchelt, the senior counsel and director of state reproductive health policy at the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC), told Mother Jones that a ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby would most immediately affect the estimated 22,000 people who work at those businesses. After all, their bosses have obviously already tried to seek this loophole.

“The corporations that brought these cases have views that are far outside the mainstream, and the outcome of these cases could have extreme consequences for millions of Americans. For the first time ever, the court could decide that corporations have the right to opt out of a legal requirement — based entirely on the personal beliefs of their owners,” said Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund.

If Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood win their cases, it could actually have implications that go far beyond contraception. For-profit companies could win the right to withhold coverage for other services they disagree with, like vaccines or blood transfusions. And businesses could gain a foothold for future discrimination against the LGBT community.

“If the Supreme Court rules in favor of the corporations, the ruling will open the door to businesses denying coverage, based on their owners’ personal beliefs, for a whole host of other medical procedures to which their employees are entitled — procedures and treatments like vaccines, surgeries, blood transfusions, or mental health care,” added Richards.

The results of the Kaiser tracking poll are the most recent indication of the widespread public support for the Affordable Care Act’s contraception coverage. A week ago, a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that nearly 70% of respondents support “mandated coverage of birth control medications in health plans.”  In a survey conducted just days before the Supreme Court began hearing oral arguments from the two for-profit companies involved in the case, more than two-thirds of female voters said they are unsympathetic to the plaintiff’s major claims and do not want the Supreme Court to side with the corporations. Nearly nine in ten women agreed that employers should not be granted the right to interfere with women’s personal choices about birth control.

Even among the general public, a majority of Americans agree with the birth control mandate — and close to half of Republican voters, male and female, also support it, showing that the issue is not nearly as controversial among the public as it is among lawmakers.

Providing women with affordable access to contraception helps prevent unintended pregnancies and lower the abortion rate, keep women in the workforce, and improve the economy as a whole. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, an estimated 47 million women across the country will have access to birth control with no additional co-pay thanks to the Affordable Care Act.

 

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