March 22, 2013 — Missouri House Speaker Tim Jones (R) on Wednesday urged the state's attorney general to appeal a federal ruling that struck down a state law (SB 749) allowing employers and health plans to refuse to cover contraception on moral or religious grounds, the AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports (AP/Atlanta-Journal Constitution, 3/20).
The law revised a 2001 Missouri statute that stated insurers "may" offer individuals and employers policies without contraceptive coverage if they request it. The new law said that insurers "shall" offer plans without the coverage. The new law also established grounds for the state attorney general and others to file lawsuits claiming religious infringement if entities that object are required to cover birth control.
A group representing health insurers sued over concerns about conflicts between the new law and federal rules requiring most health plans to cover contraceptive services at no additional cost to beneficiaries. In striking down the law, U.S. District Judge Audrey Fleissig noted that federal law takes precedence over contradictory state laws (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/19).
Details of Letter
In a letter to Attorney General Chris Koster (D), Jones wrote, "Without [the state's exemption], numerous Missouri citizens, businesses, and religious organizations will be forced to either pay massive fines or provide insurance coverage for their employees for procedures that run counter to their religious beliefs."
Nanci Gonder -- spokesperson for the attorney general's office -- said that the office has not decided whether it will appeal the ruling (AP/Atlanta-Journal Constitution, 3/20).