Benefits Buzz

Contraceptive Mandate Update

Posted on October 10th, 2017

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires most health insurance plans to cover in-network preventive care at 100%, including coverage for prescribed contraceptives available to women. This has sparked some controversy with organizations who have a religious objection to the use of contraceptives. The Obama administration addressed this controversy by doing the following:
  1. Exempted group health plans offered by churches and houses of worship from providing coverage for contraceptives if there was a religious objection.
  2. Implemented an “accommodation rule” for group health plans offered by non-profit and closely held for-profit firms with religious objections to the contraceptive coverage requirement. These employers didn’t have to bear the expense for contraceptive coverage, but coverage still had to be made available at the expense of the insurance company or third-party administrator. 
The accommodation rule is where most of the controversy existed. Some non-profit and closely held firms argued the accommodation rule violated their religious beliefs since the plan still provided coverage for contraceptives. More than 200 lawsuits were filed challenging the accommodation rule.
On Friday, the Trump administration decided to make changes to the contraceptive mandate. Under the new rules, any non-profit group, non-publicly traded company, or higher education institution can request a full exemption from the contraceptive coverage requirement if they have a religious objection. These companies will be provided the same rights that churches and houses of worship already have. There’s an expectation that several religiously-affiliated colleges, universities, hospitals and other organizations will be requesting an exemption. 
In addition, publicly traded companies (who were not previously eligible for any exceptions) will now be able to request an accommodation if they have a religious objection to the contraceptive coverage requirement. These companies will still have to provide coverage for contraceptives, just not at their own expense. 
Organizations who were opposed to the accommodation rule issued under the Obama are applauding the new guidance. However, many women’s health advocates fear the new rules will limit access to contraceptive coverage for those who need it.  


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