I am an employer who provides health benefits to my employees through an outside insurance company. Contraceptives are included in the prescription drug plan that is part of the insurance package. I do not want to pay for the provision of contraceptives to my employees because contraception violates my personal religious beliefs. Must I financially support an insurance benefit that contradicts my personal beliefs?


California law requires that most employers who provide prescription drug benefits must provide coverage for contraceptives. Twenty other states have similar requirements. In California, this requirement is found in the Women’s Compensation Equity Act (WCEA). The WCEA was enacted in 1999 in order to eliminate gender discrimination in the provision of healthcare benefits and to improve access to prescription contraceptives. It was enacted because of evidence that women historically spent as much as sixty-eight percent (68%) more than men in out-of-pocket healthcare costs, due primarily to prescription contraceptives and various pregnancy-related costs.

The WCEA contains an exemption that permits religious employers to exclude coverage for contraceptive methods that are contrary to the religious employer’s religious tenets. However, the religious employer exemption does not consider the personal religious beliefs of an employer as an individual. Instead, the exemption sets out a test against which the religious employer entity will be measured. This test includes whether the instilling of religious values is the purpose of the entity; whether the entity primarily employs persons who share the religious tenets of the entity; whether the entity serves primarily persons who share the religious tenets of the entity; and whether the entity is a non-profit organization. Because your objection to the provision of contraceptives is based on your personal religious beliefs, as opposed to the fact that the purpose of the entity itself is religious, the religious employer exception would not apply.

In Catholic Charities of Sacramento v. the Superior Court of Sacramento, the California Supreme Court held that a non-profit organization affiliated with the Catholic Church was subject to the requirements of the WCEA. In the Catholic Charities case, the employer claimed that the WCEA was unconstitutional in requiring the provision of contraceptives because the use of contraceptives is contrary to the tenets of the Catholic Church. Also at issue in the Catholic Charities case was whether that particular employer qualified for the religious employer exemption. The California Supreme Court noted that while the WCEA does not require any employer to offer coverage for prescription drugs, if an employer chooses to provide prescription coverage, the coverage must include prescription contraceptives. The United States Supreme Court has granted review of the Catholic Charities case.

In conclusion, employers who do not qualify for the religious employer exemption must pay for the provision of contraceptives to their employees if they offer coverage for prescription medications. If you do not want to pay for the provision of contraceptives, you must cease providing coverage for any other prescription medication.
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