January 11th, 2013
03:40 PM ET

Hobby Lobby finds way around $1.3-million-a-day Obamacare hit - for now

By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Editor
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Washington (CNN) - By Friday, Hobby Lobby would have racked up $14.3 million in fines from the Internal Revenue Service for bucking Obamacare. But in keeping with the great American tax tradition, they may have found a loophole.

The company is facing $1.3 million a day in fines for each day it chooses not to comply with a piece of the Affordable Care Act that was set to trigger for them on January 1. The craft store chain announced in December that, because of religious objections, they would face the fines for not providing certain types of birth control through their company health insurance.

The penalty was set to go into effect on the day the company's new health care plan went into effect for the year.

Peter M. Dobelbower, general counsel for Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. said in a statement released through the Becket Fund that, "Hobby Lobby discovered a way to shift the plan year for its employee health insurance, thus postponing the effective date of the mandate for several months."

The statement continued that "Hobby Lobby does not provide coverage for abortion-inducing drugs in its health care plan. Hobby Lobby will continue to vigorously defend its religious liberty and oppose the mandate and any penalties."

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Last month Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor rejected the company's appeal for a temporary relief from the steep fines while their case made its way through the lower courts.

Hobby Lobby announced a day after the ruling that it "will continue to provide health insurance to all qualified employees. To remain true to their faith, it is not their intention, as a company, to pay for abortion-inducing drugs."

In September, Hobby Lobby and affiliate Mardel, a Christian bookstore chain, sued the federal government for violating their owners' religious freedom and ability to freely exercise their religion.

The lawsuit says the companies' religious beliefs prohibit them from providing insurance coverage for abortion-inducing drugs. As of August 2012, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, dubbed Obamacare, requires employer-provided health care plans to provide "all Food and Drug Administration approved contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures, and patient education and counseling for all women with reproductive capacity," according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Churches and houses of worship are exempt from the regulation and a narrow exemption was added for nonprofit religious employers whose employees "primarily share its religious tenets" and who "primarily serve persons who share its religious tenets."

The Internal Revenue Service regulations now say that a group health care plan that "fails to comply" with the Affordable Care Act is subject to an "excise tax" of "$100 per day per individual for each day the plan does not comply with the requirement." It remains unclear how the IRS would implement and collect the excise tax.

A spokesperson for the Justice Department declined to comment on the high court's move last month.

White House officials have long said they believe they have struck an appropriate compromise between religious exemptions and women's health. The White House has not commented specifically on the Hobby Lobby case.

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The Oklahoma City-based Hobby Lobby chain has more than 500 stores that employ 13,000 employees across 42 states, and takes in $2.6 billion in sales. It is still privately held by CEO and founder David Green and members of his family.

"The foundation of our business has been, and will continue to be strong values, and honoring the Lord in a manner consistent with biblical principles," a statement on the Hobby Lobby website reads, adding that one outgrowth of that is the store is closed on Sundays to give its employees a day of rest.

MORE BACKGROUND: Hobby Lobby faces millions in fines for bucking Obamacare

The Hobby Lobby case is just one of many before the courts over the religious exemption aspects of the law. The case represents by far the biggest for-profit group challenging the health care mandate.

Part of the reason Sotomayor rejected their appeal to the Supreme Court she wrote was because their case is still pending in the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver.

A spokesperson for the Becket Fund said on Friday a date has yet to be set for the case to be heard in the 10th Circuit.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Belief • Church and state • Courts

soundoff (4,609 Responses)
  1. anchorite

    That's OK. I've started shopping at Michael's now for everything I need, as has everyone I know. Maybe they can weight the costs on their own later. They can bash women with someone else's money.

    January 13, 2013 at 1:36 pm |
    • gladitsnight

      Good for you. This is a store I will never patronize.

      January 13, 2013 at 1:40 pm |
  2. Scottish Mama

    Unionize Hobby Lobby and Walmart.

    January 13, 2013 at 1:30 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Better yet, let's collectivize into soviets and jack off to Lenin and Trotsky.

      January 13, 2013 at 1:43 pm |
    • Scottish Mama

      Your way of using your sperm religously?

      January 13, 2013 at 2:10 pm |
  3. Afreind

    If HL prevails maybe my friend, who stanchly opposes anti-psychotic medicines, can get them excluded from his health plan without having to pay a penalty. I am sure there are business all over the US that oppose some element or option of modern health care. So once they declare it to be a "cornerstone" of their religious beliefs, they get to remove it from their health care plan. This sounds like a realistic course of action...

    January 13, 2013 at 1:30 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Don't encourage the mentally deficient. They're dumb enough to think you're serious.

      January 13, 2013 at 1:32 pm |
  4. Larry

    Since Hobby Lobby has the freedom to offer or not offer their employees heath insurance, they should have the freedom to determine what in that insurcance they wish to offer (and pay for) or not. This government is anti-American in that it is taking away our freedoms...something we use speak out against. Now our government practices it. Disgusting.

    January 13, 2013 at 1:28 pm |
    • Julie

      Spoken like a true evangelical zealot. Aren't you suppose to be in church right now?

      January 13, 2013 at 1:32 pm |
    • chicadow

      It's "anti-merkin". That blasted government is even trying to make employers pay a minimum wage. We might a well put a big ole hammer and sickle on our flag.

      January 13, 2013 at 1:35 pm |
    • Really??

      The government is us. If you have something to say, you have the right and the duty to stand up. It is only you that can make a change if you think there needs to be one. Convince enough people, and policies change. Griping about it is the un-american thing to do.

      January 13, 2013 at 1:36 pm |
    • Chrashtopher

      Typical illiterate blathering. Are you drunk or stupid? Why can't your ilk even string together a coherent sentence? Ever?????!!!!
      Do they pump carbon monoxide into your church??

      January 13, 2013 at 1:40 pm |
    • Barry

      If they have more than 50 employees, they do not have a choice of whether they offer health care. Health care isn't offered because businesses care about their employees; it's there because unions and politicians had to force business owners to be decent. They had to force decent wages and 40 hour work weeks and safe work environment and vacations on businesses that absolutely refused to do it.

      Ironically, your owe your present work conditions to the socialists and communists and unions of the 1880s-1940s. Business owners enjoy the higher profits that come from broader general prosperity and leisure time, and people became comfortable enough to reject socialism (no, liberalism is not socialism).

      Want to go back to 100 our works weeks for 20 dollars a week, unsafe work conditions, fired if sick or hurt or pregnant, no vacation, no hope of saving for retirement?

      Does that sound like a good idea?

      Business owners operate on greed. They must be forced to be decent.

      January 13, 2013 at 1:44 pm |
  5. jim

    Greed and religion have walked hand-in-hand for eons. Why would anyone expect it to change today?

    January 13, 2013 at 1:27 pm |
    • kc

      what does not offering one type of drug coverage have to do with greed

      January 13, 2013 at 1:35 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Why do you think HL is trying to avoid paying a fine for breaking the law other than greed?

      January 13, 2013 at 2:06 pm |
  6. Scottish Mama

    And then a new store springs up with American made products. Could I be dreaming? American manufacturing is up.

    January 13, 2013 at 1:26 pm |
  7. jim

    Next will be the mortgage banks tell America that it's against their religion to care for anyone but themselves. Which is, of course true.

    January 13, 2013 at 1:21 pm |
  8. Deez

    So, Scientologists can deny psychiatric coverage, Jehovah's Witness can deny blood transfusions, Mormons can deny medicines with alcohol in it, Amish can deny any use of any equipment that uses electricity... it is obvious that we can't cater to each religion's beliefs! In the end, the people suffer, because people get healthcare insurance through their job. Solution? Decouple healthcare from employers!

    January 13, 2013 at 1:21 pm |
  9. Julie

    You have to love it. Hobby Lobby didn't think they got enough bad press last time, so they choose to delay the inevitable and not pay the fine or provide health care. Congratulations on their continued alienation of atleast 50% of the consumer base. Good luck in your going out of buisness sale.

    January 13, 2013 at 1:21 pm |
  10. chicadow

    There is a new section in the breakroom of the Hobby Lobby for its employees who weren't able to get the pill through their insurance. It's called the Adoption Option. You can drop your new baby in the container when you punch in for work.

    January 13, 2013 at 1:14 pm |
    • Hobby Lobby Labor Relations Division

      No, we make you keep it, then we make sure you can't afford it.

      January 13, 2013 at 1:25 pm |
  11. Scottish Mama

    @ OG-statistics say 78% of abortions are on religious believers.

    January 13, 2013 at 1:12 pm |
    • Paul Of Fordtaurus

      Which is almost exactly their proportion in society. Yep, for all their bullying, religious people can't even get their own children to obey their tyrrany.

      January 13, 2013 at 1:18 pm |
    • Scottish Mama

      An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure?

      January 13, 2013 at 1:23 pm |
    • Larry

      78% is almost as high a percentage as the percentage of liberals that make up their statistics (84%).

      January 13, 2013 at 1:31 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Look it up, stupid. SM is correct. Most abortions are had by women and girls who profess adherence to belief. Looks like you folks are lying to yourselves and everyone else.

      January 13, 2013 at 1:35 pm |
    • Scottish Mama

      Larry your statistics are made up, mine are not. Nice try though.

      January 13, 2013 at 2:17 pm |
  12. MP in VA

    It is so ironic that a) Hobby Lobby will gladly pay all sorts of taxes and fees to the government that go for all manner of governmental policies, actions, and laws that are counter to the teachings of Jesus, and b) that they would deny freedom of choice to their employees regarding health care, because, heaven forbid, the government should tell HL what to do. I'm sick these pretend Christians who cherry pick scripture to fulfill their myopic and narrow-minded beliefs. Pure hypocrisy at its absolute worst.

    January 13, 2013 at 1:08 pm |
    • MM in Alabama

      I agree. I don't "get" the hypocrisy of cherry picking medical procedures, while doing business with manufacturers in China, where abortion is a run-of-the-mill medical treatment for women, because of the one-child policy - both of which I personally find horrific.

      I think the Hobby Lobby owner(s) just want to be as cheap as possible, and sell the cheapest, crappiest products they can put on the market, all the while hiding behind religious beliefs. What happens to employees who might be non-Christian - Hindu? Jewish? Native American? Muslim?

      I drop by one of their stores only 1 or 2 times a year out of curiosity to see what they have to offer, but I haven't ever actually bought anything. It's always been cheap crap. Now I know I won't even drop by. Plus, who wants to support owners that force their beliefs on their employees? It's just another way to avoid paying taxes and hacking away at employee benefits. Welcome to Wally-World.

      January 13, 2013 at 1:38 pm |
  13. tarastokens

    Glad to see another company use religion to screw over their employees and save money. Let's be honest here this is only an attempt by Hobby Lobby to save money and using religion as the reason. They are NOT a non-profit organization religious organization. Companies like this make honest religious based non-profits appear in a poor light. This is not an issue of woman's health nor birth control this is simply an issue of yet another greedy company trying to worm their way out of taking care of their employees which is why the program was created in the first place. For shame Hobby Lobby – I am proud to now boycott shopping there until you step up and care for your employees like thousand of other companies are now!

    January 13, 2013 at 1:07 pm |
    • MonaLissa

      You know, I was wondering when Hobby Lobby became a church!! LOL

      January 13, 2013 at 2:06 pm |
  14. Viper

    ""The foundation of our business has been, and will continue to be strong values, and honoring the Lord in a manner consistent with biblical principles," a statement on the Hobby Lobby website reads, "

    Hmm... Does that mean that David Green "will continue to go into his daughter, until she is quick with child" as Abraham did in Genesis?

    January 13, 2013 at 1:04 pm |
    • J

      Abraham never "went into" his child. Thanks for trying to troll though.

      January 13, 2013 at 1:26 pm |
    • Mamba

      What are you talking about? Abraham never had a daughter. He did however, marry his half-sister.

      January 13, 2013 at 1:32 pm |
    • Viper

      I stand corrected, it was Lot that got busy with his own daughters.. "The next day the older daughter said to the younger, "Last night I lay with my father. Let's get him to drink wine again tonight, and you go in and lie with him so we can preserve our family line through our father." Genesis 19:33

      Good thing for Davey, he probably couldn't measure up to Abraham, but Lot should be a piece of cake. ;-p

      January 13, 2013 at 1:34 pm |
    • Chad

      you stand corrected again, Lot wasnt aware of what was going on.

      Try this: actually read the bible prior to critiquing it!

      January 13, 2013 at 2:02 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Chard: try learning the definition of pregnancy before you look like the ass you are.

      January 13, 2013 at 2:04 pm |
    • Chad

      Excluding from the definition of "pregnancy" that time period from conception to implantation in the uterus is completely arbitrary.

      It matters not to the newly conceived child at which point in development that they are murdered. Regardless of when, he/she was alive, then dead.

      January 13, 2013 at 2:31 pm |
    • Jen

      Completely arbitrary in your mind. Quite clear to those medical professionals with a decade more of education and IQs at least 50 points higher than yours. Now whose view is correct? Hmmmm.....

      January 13, 2013 at 2:37 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      Chad, and others like him, claim to know:

      1. there's some sort of magic that takes place in some life (not all)
      2. that this magic is important even though it's completely invisible, undetectable, and unproven
      3. that this magic only occurs when certain cells meet up in certain conditions
      4. that this magic happens at one specific time
      5. that doing something physical to that clump of cells somehow affects the invisible, undetectable, and unproven magic

      January 13, 2013 at 2:43 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Chard, if it's arbitrary, then what you say is immaterial. If it's arbitrary, then our laws make the determination.

      Your say-so is irrelevant. Nobody is asking your when life begins because the answer doesn't matter. What DOES matter is whose rights are paramount. Since you have no basis for you case, the decision is made under secular laws. Abide by them or pay the fine.

      That's all there is to it.

      January 13, 2013 at 2:46 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Chard, your silly admonitions about what "matters to the murdered child" are beyond hilarious. Do tell us all you remember from the days before you were implanted. Waiting with anticipation.

      Comedy gold, I tell you. How could anyone make up a character like Chard?

      No one would find him believable outside of a Dickens novel.

      January 13, 2013 at 2:48 pm |
    • Jen

      Ha ha. And considering that conception itself takes place over the course of time, when does the 'magic' occur? When the sperm starts to burrow? When it's head is in? When the tail is in? Why can't the magic start before? Like when they are swimming towards the egg?

      But I'm sure it starts when Chad thinks it does. He knows better than anyone else.

      January 13, 2013 at 2:51 pm |
  15. Peter Bishop

    If an employee does not like Hobby Lobby's stand on birth control, they can find someplace else to work.

    January 13, 2013 at 1:04 pm |
    • Scottish Mama

      If people do not like unions they do not have to work for a union company? I see.

      January 13, 2013 at 1:09 pm |
    • Michael

      Because there are so many jobs out there. Listen, you jeebus freak, Corporations are not allowed to have religious beliefs. Despite what Romney said, they arent people. Their owners are free to practice their religion wherever and however. They *arent* free to enforce their beliefs on their employees.

      January 13, 2013 at 1:15 pm |
    • jim

      You know Peter, that is PRECISELY, i mean PRECISELY, the argument companies used in the 1920 and 30s to oppose improvements to work place safety.


      January 13, 2013 at 1:25 pm |
  16. Darnell Roberts

    To hell with this "religious" company. Its flagrant disrespect and flaunting of the law is un-American and treasonous. It's so convenient how standing up for their "biblical principles" screws their employees and fattens the CEO's pockets.

    January 13, 2013 at 1:02 pm |
  17. gahh

    Since insurance premiums keep going up, how can any company afford to provide insurance to any employees?

    January 13, 2013 at 1:01 pm |
    • Scottish Mama

      premiums under Bush went up 143%, under Obamas 4 years it went up only 20%, he has stopped the chronic hemoraging of paychecks.

      January 13, 2013 at 1:04 pm |
  18. BobinCO

    My belief is that HL has no business sticking their nose in the employee's business after hours to begin with. And the fact that they will provide coverage for erectile dysfunction and not birth control? Telling and shameful.

    January 13, 2013 at 1:01 pm |
  19. VEW2012

    Which means I will continue to boycot Hobby Lobby. An employee's health insurance for which they work, is a part of their wage package. They should be allowed to spend their wages for whatever health benefits they deem necessary...and that should not be subject to their employer's religious belief's.

    January 13, 2013 at 12:58 pm |
  20. bob

    Well hope all the liberals are happy. If the federal government continues to push to ignore their religous convictions then I think Hobby Lobby should simply shut their doors and fire all the workers to make a point. For all you pudits that argue it should be covered because some women need birth control pills for hormonal reasons then it wouldn't be birth control anymore and hence it is already covered since the purpose of the medication being given is not to prevent pregnancies but rather to stabilze hormone the side effect happens to be anti-conception.

    January 13, 2013 at 12:54 pm |
    • Tao

      Bob, so a Jehovah's Witness who owns a company does not need to provide insurance coverage for an employee who gets cancer? Your logic is flawless.

      January 13, 2013 at 1:04 pm |
    • Joeymom

      If it is such a religious conviction, what is the harm of including it? Surely the employee won't use it if it is so important to them, and such a part of their religion. Nor will they need it for any other medical treatment of any other condition, right?

      January 13, 2013 at 1:04 pm |
    • Scottish Mama

      @Joeym- They cannot trust the believers to not use contraceptives, so they must make a mandate on everyone.

      January 13, 2013 at 1:07 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      If HL had any courage, it would do just that, boob. This isn't about religious convictions at all. HL's owners are liars and hypocrites.

      January 13, 2013 at 1:09 pm |
    • 0G-No gods, ghosts, goblins or ghouls

      Yes, Hobby "Just Another Bunch of Azzhole Believers" Lobby should simply trust their cult members to do the right thing (according to their cult), after all only 700,000+ god-fearing believers per year in the USA get an abortion. . .

      January 13, 2013 at 1:09 pm |
    • BobinCO

      Spoken like a true wing nut: If it can't be MY way, then destroy it!! And the government SHOULD ignore the religious convictions that are brought into the public arena. Personally, I am religious, and have my standards for myself and my family. But it us un-American to take those religious beliefs and force them on others, who may have their own or none at all. This is one reason that Fundies (especially the Evangelical ones) are having such a tough time recently–the rest of the country has woken up and realized that there is a big difference between the "thinking"–holding a religious belief– and the "doing"–taking those beliefs as an excuse to subjugate fellow tax-paying, law-abiding citizens.

      January 13, 2013 at 1:09 pm |
    • Kiki

      if insurance includes prescription drug coverage then any physician prescribed medication should be included and a patients right to privacy should be respected.

      January 13, 2013 at 1:28 pm |
    • Thaddius

      Bob, your kind are a dying breed. Thank God.

      Incidentally places like Saudi Arabia are very conservative. Perhaps you should move there?

      January 13, 2013 at 1:40 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.