During a news conference yesterday, House Majority Leader Erin Murphy (D-St. Paul), introduced a bill that would essentially nullify the impact of the U.S. Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby ruling in Minnesota and force employers to offer contraceptive coverage to their employees.
Reached for comment later in the day, Murphy told us, "The goal is to make sure that women have access to affordable contraception in their employer-based coverage, similar to what the law was under the Affordable Care Act before the Hobby Lobby decision."
Murphy explained that because Hobby Lobby was based on a federal law, not the constitution, state legislatures have the power to nullify it. Twenty nine states have taken that approach.
Though there's an election before the next legislative session, Murphy said she thinks it's important to spread the word about her proposal now so voters can keep it in mind come November, when many expect Republicans to retake control of the Minnesota House.
"It's important that we talk about it now so Minnesota can have this discussion ahead of the election and make decisions in the election based on this information," Murphy said. The DFL "will act on this in 2015."
In a press release posted on Murphy's website, the bill is explained as follows:
The CHEER Act would require employer health plans to include coverage for all Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved contraceptive methods and procedures if the employer's health plan provides prescription drug coverage to its employees. The proposal includes an exemption for non-profit religious employers...Murphy told us she "hasn't yet talked with anybody in the Senate," but added, "I imagine there will be interest."
The Court's ruling is limited to "closely-held" for-profit corporations, but that definition appears to include numerous, large Minnesota employers as long as they have fewer than 35 shareholders - such companies employ hundreds of thousands of Minnesotans [such as Cargill, Murphy told us]. And the ruling may allow closely-held, for-profit employers to also deny basic preventive health care services like vaccines or HIV treatment for their employees.
"I think this will have strong support," she said. "I think Minnesotans understand why this is important. Support for this is strong -- you can feel it."
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In a statement of her own, NARAL Pro-Choice Minnesota Executive Director Linnea House praised Murphy's proposal.
"The Hobby Lobby decision allows bosses too much control over the health-care decisions of their employees," she said. "This bill makes it clear that Minnesota will protect the right of workers to make reproductive health care decisions without fear of getting fired."
"NARAL Pro-Choice Minnesota's message has always been clear: bosses who want control over their employees' personal medical decisions are offensive, out of touch, and out of bounds," House continued. "Access to contraception allows women to plan their families, as well as to seek relief from painful medical conditions... Ninety-nine percent of women use birth control at some point in their lives, and for a wide variety of medical reasons, and not one of those decisions should involve their employers."