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Originally published Monday, June 30, 2014 at 8:31 PM

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Everett business owner agrees with Hobby Lobby ruling

The Supreme Court’s ruling allowing for-profit companies to opt out of contraceptive coverage means forward motion for a Washington case involving pharmacists who object to dispensing emergency contraceptives, but other effects are not so clear.


Seattle Times health reporter

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Jim Mischel, founder and president of an Everett manufacturing company, says the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in the Hobby Lobby case will allow his for-profit company to follow its deeply held religious beliefs — beliefs that years ago led to his parents’ adopting his brother, born to a teenage rape victim who had been intent on having an abortion.

“I think the court got it just right,” Mischel said. His self-insured company, Electric Mirror, which manufactures lighted mirrors and other products for hotels around the world, has about 270 employees and offers generous health-insurance coverage, he said. “We want to provide great coverage to all our employees, but we found ourselves having to really go against our fundamental religious beliefs and our own personal story. ... This is a very personal issue for us.”

Mischel said his family members, who filed a brief in the Supreme Court case supporting the companies fighting the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive coverage mandate, don’t object to all types of contraception, just ones they believe induce abortion, such as emergency contraception.

Churches and nonprofit religious groups were previously granted “accommodation” from the contraceptive mandate, although some groups still object, and legal cases continue.

“We thought it was amazing that Obama­care allowed religious nonprofits to opt out but didn’t extend that to private business owners with the same religious beliefs,” Mischel said.

Local reproductive-freedom advocacy groups and Democratic political leaders widely condemned the ruling.

“The court has essentially said that a corporation’s religious affiliation can trump women’s health-care choices,” state Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler said in a statement.

Mischel said the court’s ruling doesn’t take away the rights of employees — his or others’ — to buy whatever type of contraceptives they want. “They can walk down the street and do what their values support,” he said.

Nor does it restrict other businesses’ coverage decisions, he added. “I’m not planning to go down to Microsoft and tell them to change their insurance policies.”

Insurers in Washington said they’ve already created the machinery to allow churches and nonprofits to avoid paying for contraceptives.

But they said they cannot predict how many for-profit companies might seek similar accommodation under Monday’s ruling.

“We have no idea at this point what it’s going to start to look like,” said Megan Howell, director of policy and regulatory affairs at Group Health Cooperative.

Individual and small-group plans in Washington, which are regulated by the state’s Office of the Insurance Commissioner, must comply with a “benchmark” plan, which includes contraceptive coverage.

The Hobby Lobby ruling also ends a hiatus for Washington’s long-running case involving the same emergency contraceptives at issue in the Hobby Lobby case. The case centers on state rules that now allow pharmacists who object to providing emergency contraceptives to avoid dispensing them, but require pharmacies to either dispense the drugs or refer customers to a pharmacy that does.

That case, which has boomeranged from court to court, landed once again at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals late last year, but a decision in the case was deferred pending the Hobby Lobby ruling, according to a spokesman for the state’s Department of Health.

Carol M. Ostrom: costrom@seattletimes.com or 206-464-2249. On Twitter @costrom



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