New York Proposes Bill to Blunt Effects of ‘Hobby Lobby’

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, along with several other Democratic leaders in the state, announced late Thursday that they are proposing a bill to mitigate the effects of the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby ruling. The Reproductive Rights Disclosure Act would require all companies to give a 90-day notice to employers if they decide to drop contraceptive coverage from employee health insurance plans.

In June, the Supreme Court found that closely held corporations do not have to provide their employees with insurance plans that cover the 20 contraceptives outlined by the Affordable Care Act. A U.S. Senate bill proposing to clarify that corporations cannot use religious belief as a justification to opt out of certain kinds of insurance was blocked on the Senate floor this week, and now state senates are picking up efforts to curtail the effects of the ruling.

In a press statement and op-ed in the Huffington Post, Schneiderman said that his legislation would do more than put in place a “notice standard for all employers” by requiring them to notify both their employees and the state before making a change. “It would also require employers to inform prospective employees of the scope of any contraceptive coverage they offer, so workers can make an informed choice before accepting an offer of employment,” he said.

Employers would face a $5,000 penalty for violating the mandate.

The White House made a similar move Thursday, announcing that companies that decide to drop insurance coverage of contraceptives must “include a description of the extent to which preventive services (which includes contraceptive services) are covered under the plan.” Through an update to the Department of Labor’s website, the White House clarified that such companies have 60 days to notify employees. The announcement was not part of a rule change, but a clarification of existing federal notification law.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) proposed similar legislation on Monday.

In a statement on Thursday, Democratic conference leader and state Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins, who is proposing the bill along with Attorney General Schneiderman, said that “New York State must take decisive action to protect women’s rights and health” in the wake of Hobby Lobby. Schneiderman echoed the sentiment that it’s up to states to correct the Supreme Court’s mistake, noting that “[w]hile state law cannot undo all the damage of that misguided decision, we can go a long way to empower women in New York State with the information they need to make their own health-care choices. And that is what the Reproductive Rights Disclosure Act will do.”

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