Jul 1 3:11 PM

The out-of-pocket costs of Hobby Lobby

In the wake of Hobby Lobby, 'religious' corporations can shape employees' access to reproductive services.
BSIP / UIG / Getty Images

In Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, the Supreme Court ruled that a “closely held corporation” reflecting its owners “sincere religious beliefs” need not cover employees’ contraceptive health services under the Affordable Care Act. The decision matters a great deal for the 43 million women of childbearing age who want to control if and when they become pregnant.

Although the giant arts-and-crafts chain has stated that it only objects to “items that risk killing an embryo,” such as the morning-after pill and IUDs (small contraceptive devices implanted in the uterus), other employers may object to covering condoms or the birth control pills used by 17.1 percent of adult women.

Al Jazeera wondered how this ruling could affect retail workers seeking reproductive health care in Oklahoma City, Hobby Lobby’s headquarters.

Low-wage realities

A retail employee can be paid as little as $7.25 per hour in Oklahoma. At 40 hours per week, that adds up to $15,080 in gross annual pay, but just $1,098 per month in take-home pay. Fortunately, under the state’s Medicaid extension plan for family-planning services, adults earning up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level can obtain free contraception, a small benefit for low-wage workers.

But a full-time retail employee paid more than the minimum wage might not qualify for any public health program. An Oklahoman earning the national retail median of $10.29 per hour, at 40 hours per week, would gross $21,403 per year and take home about $1,495 per month. In a post-Hobby Lobby world, she would be covered by her employer’s health insurance plan, except when it comes to services and prescriptions her employer finds ethically objectionable.

Here’s what this worker, now functionally uninsured in terms of birth control, would have to spend in Oklahoma City:

Contraceptive costs in Oklahoma City
Type of contraception / vendor Cost without contraceptive coverage
Birth control pills
Planned Parenthood $100 office visit + $30/month
Walgreens $100 office visit (off-site) + $30/month
Walmart $100 office visit (off-site) + $9/month
Morning-after pill
Planned Parenthood $38
Walgreens $48.95
Walmart $50.88
Planned Parenthood $100 office visit + $705 device + $70 office visit
Walgreens Not available
Walmart Not available
Source: Al Jazeera reporting Notes: Cost estimates are based on reporting and telephone price checks with Oklahoma City-based pharmacies and Planned Parenthood. These are prices for individual locations, not statewide averages.

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