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Some firms begin backing away from birth-control coverage

Business owners who don't want to pay for their employees' birth control are ending that coverage after the U.S. Supreme Court said they could choose on grounds of religious belief not to comply with part of the healthcare law.

Triune Health Group wants to know how soon it can change its coverage to stop paying for all contraceptives, said Mary Anne Yep, co-owner of the Oak Brook, Ill., company that provides medical management services.

"We were ready to go when we heard the decision," she said. Triune had filed lawsuits against the U.S. government and the state of Illinois because of requirements that they pay for contraception.

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The Supreme Court ruled that some businesses can, because of their religious beliefs, choose not to comply with the healthcare law's requirement that contraception coverage be provided to workers at no extra charge. The 5-4 ruling has the Obama administration looking for another way to provide birth control for women who work for those companies.

But many companies are likely to continue providing coverage for birth control — a survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation found 85% of large employers already paid for contraceptives before the healthcare law required it. Many owners believe it's an important benefit that helps them attract and retain good workers.

"We want to provide for good healthcare for our people. We just don't want to fund abortive procedures," said Mike Sharrow, owner of C12 Group in San Antonio. His company, which provides faith-based counseling for business owners, has always paid for what he calls traditional forms of contraception, such as birth-control pills.

The case decided by the Supreme Court involved two companies, Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. About 50 others also filed suit against the healthcare law's contraception requirement. Some received court injunctions allowing them not to pay for birth control; the Supreme Court's ruling is expected to allow them to continue that policy.

"We don't believe anybody else shouldn't have access to it. We just can't pay for it," said Dan Weingartz, the company's president.

"Our clients have no problems with things that are truly contraceptive," Bowman said.

"We believe that those family businesses should have the religious freedom not to offer abortion-causing items through their employee healthcare program," Tyndale CEO Mark Taylor said in a statement. The Carol Stream, Ill., company publishes Christian books.

"Framing this as an issue of contraception is wrong. It's a battle against bullying by the government, telling us what to do," said Yep, the Triune Health Group owner.
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