The early morning sun rises behind the U.S. Supreme Court building May 15 in Washington, DC. Today the high court sent the Affordable Care Act's contraceptive mandate case back down to the lower courts for opposing parties to work out a compromise.

The early morning sun rises behind the U.S. Supreme Court building May 15 in Washington, DC. Today the high court sent the Affordable Care Act's contraceptive mandate case back down to the lower courts for opposing parties to work out a compromise.

Julie Rovner of Kaiser Health News offers reaction to the Supreme Court’s unsigned unanimous opinion on access to contraception.

Guests

  • Julie Rovner Senior correspondent, Kaiser Health News; author of "Health Care Policy and Politics A-Z"

Transcript

  • 11:06:54

    MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. When Michael Brown was diagnosed with bladder cancer, one doctor swiftly detailed the path forward, cut out the bladder, cut out the prostate and radically change Michael's quality of life. His partner, actor and author, Marilu Henner had spent years researching and writing about health and she felt there must be another way. Together, the couple went after a new approach to Michael's eventual double cancer diagnosis, avoiding multiple surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation and focusing instead on overall health.

  • 11:07:37

    MS. DIANE REHMThe new book documenting their journey is titled "Changing Normal: How I Helped My Husband Beat Cancer." Marilu Henner and Michael Brown join me in the studio. You, as always, are welcome to be with us. Call us on 800-433-8850. Send an email to drshow@wamu.org. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter. Well, Marilu and Michael, it's so good to see you both.

  • 11:08:08

    MS. MARILU HENNEROh, my gosh. It's always great to see you, Diane.

  • 11:08:10

    REHMThank you.

  • 11:08:11

    MR. MICHAEL BROWNIt's good to see you, Diane.

  • 11:08:12

    HENNERYou look as gorgeous as ever.

  • 11:08:13

    REHMThank you. Thank you so much. Before we begin our conversation about your marvelous book, "Changing Normal," the Supreme Court has sent the Obamacare contraceptive coverage case back to the lower courts. And I find this very confusing so we asked Julie Rovner, the senior correspondent at Kaiser Health News, to join us very briefly to talk about this. Julie, thank you for joining us.

  • 11:08:52

    MS. JULIE ROVNERAlways my pleasure, Diane.

  • 11:08:54

    REHMTell me -- remind us about the issue before the court very briefly, please.

  • 11:09:00

    ROVNERWell, one of the things that the Affordable Care Act does is it requires that insurance plans cover, with no upfront cost to the woman, all forms of contraception approved by the Food and Drug Administration. There is an exemption for actual -- for churches, for houses of worship, but for religious-oriented organizations, which are mostly religious hospitals and universities and other schools, there are what they called and accommodation to make it easier for them to provide this coverage without actually paying for it or being involved in the provision.

  • 11:09:36

    ROVNERThere were several changes to this. The final change allowed these religious organizations simply to notify their insurers that they did not wish to cover this and then the insurers would have to. The religious organization said that wasn't good enough. They sued. There seven cases before the Supreme Court and it was pretty clear when this case was argued in March that there was a 4-4 tie. It was pretty obvious. The court came back a couple of weeks later, asked for further briefings from the two sides and then today issued a decision that basically said we're not going to decide this and they sent it back to the lower courts to see if they could work it out.

  • 11:10:13

    ROVNERIn fact, there is, in this unsigned opinion, they make very clear. It said, the court expresses no view on the merits of the cases. So basically, it's an 18-page punt.

  • 11:10:22

    REHMHuh. So how does that affect the provision of contraceptives to those who wish to have them from these particular kinds of hospitals when they are asked for it?

  • 11:10:40

    ROVNERWell, this is a good question because they didn’t -- if there had been a tie, the lower court rulings would've stood. And in all but one of the cases, the lower court rulings were for the government, saying that these religious organizations did have to provide this coverage, you know, using this accommodation. So, you know, that the insurance companies would have had to do it. In this case, they have vacated the court of appeals decision.

  • 11:11:04

    REHMA lower court...

  • 11:11:05

    ROVNERRight. Well, not the lower, lower court, but the court of appeals decision.

  • 11:11:07

    REHMRight, but the appeals.

  • 11:11:09

    ROVNERSo I think it's going to depend on what the decisions were on the -- below that or I don't know whether the stays are still in place pending this. There's a lot of questions still to be answered, but basically what the Supreme Court did is they bought themselves at least another year before they'll have to look at this again when presumably there will be nine justices again and not eight.

  • 11:11:28

    REHMAll right. And Julie Rovner is senior correspondent at Kaiser Health News. Thank you for joining us even though these questions still remain up in the air. Thanks again.

  • 11:11:46

    ROVNERSure.

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