On its last day of the current session, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a 5-4 ruling limiting enforcement of the ACA mandate that requires most corporations to include no-cost contraceptive coverage in their employee health plans. The suit had been brought by three family-held for-profit corporations on the basis that the mandate infringed on their religious freedoms, citing the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which requires the government to employ the least restrictive measures when enacting any law that may "substantially burden a person's exercise of religion". Specifically the plaintiffs objected to the requirement to include no-cost contraception, (part of the ACA's preventive care and screenings for women), because it includes methods that violate their belief that life begins at conception.
The Court cited less-burdensome alternatives that have already been made available by HHS for religious non-profits to accomplish the coverage goals without being directly involved, such as allowing them to turn over the handling of contraceptive coverage to a third-party administrator, (although that alternative is currently facing its own court challenges).
The ruling is a narrow one which applies only to "closely-held", for-profit businesses, whose owners hold sincere religious beliefs that could be infringed upon by the contraception mandate. Note that the Court specifically states their ruling does not apply to other mandates such as coverage for immunizations or blood transfusions. Without the ruling, if the plaintiffs had failed to comply with the mandate either by excluding no-cost contraceptive from their plans or dropping their employee health plans altogether, they could have faced ACA penalties into the millions of dollars each year.
In anticipation of such a ruling from the court, several options had already been under consideration to continue providing coverage for women whose health plans may be affected, including regulatory or legislative fixes and having the government somehow pay the cost of coverage. According to White House press secretary Josh Earnest, "Congress needs to take action to solve this problem that's been created, and the administration stands ready to work with them to do so". The official summary of the majority and dissenting opinions is available on the Court's website here.