Breaking: Obama administration proposes new contraception mandate policy

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has just announced the White House’s new proposal to maintain American women’s access to contraception without co-pays while appeasing employers who object to providing such insurance on religious grounds.

The new rules would expand what organizations can qualify for the previously-established religious exemption but, like previous iterations of the policy, shifts the cost of the coverage to insurers rather than birth control users.

Cecile Richards, President of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, expressed tentative approval of the proposal. She said in a statement:

This policy delivers on the promise of women having access to birth control without co-pays no matter where they work. Of course, we are reviewing the technical aspects of this proposal, but the principle is clear and consistent. This policy makes it clear that your boss does not get to decide whether you can have birth control.

Thinkprogress has a handy run-down of exactly what has changed. The full HHS press release is after the jump.

From HHS:

The Obama administration today issued proposed rules for public comment regarding contraceptive coverage with no cost sharing under the health care law. The proposed rules provide women with coverage for preventive care that includes contraceptive services with no co-pays, while also respecting the concerns of some religious organizations.

Today’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking reflects public feedback received through the Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking issued in March 2012.  In addition, these proposed rules are open for public comment through April 8, 2013.

“Today, the administration is taking the next step in providing women across the nation with coverage of recommended preventive care at no cost, while respecting religious concerns,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.  “We will continue to work with faith-based organizations, women’s organizations, insurers and others to achieve these goals.”

The proposed rules lay out how non-profit religious organizations, such as non-profit religious hospitals or institutions of higher education, that object to contraception on religious grounds can receive an accommodation that provides their enrollees separate contraceptive coverage, and with no co-pays, but at no cost to the religious organization.

With respect to insured plans, including student health plans, these religious organizations would provide notice to their insurer.  The insurer would then notify enrollees that it is providing them with no-cost contraceptive coverage through separate individual health insurance policies.

With respect to self-insured plans, as well as student health plans, these religious organizations would provide notice to their third party administrator.  In turn, the third party administrator would work with an insurer to arrange no-cost contraceptive coverage through separate individual health insurance policies.

Insurers and third party administrators would work to ensure a seamless enrollment process.

The proposed rules lay out how the costs of both the insurer and the third party administrator would be covered, without any charge to either the religious organization or the enrollees.

Additionally, the proposed rules simplify and clarify the definition of “religious employer” for purposes of the exemption from the contraceptive coverage requirement.  These employers, primarily houses of worship, can exclude contraception coverage from their health plans for their employees.

The proposed rules are available here: http://www.ofr.gov/inspection.aspx

A fact sheet on today’s proposed rules is available here: http://cciio.cms.gov/resources/factsheets/womens-preven-02012013.html

For more information on women’s preventive services and the Affordable Care Act, visit: http://www.healthcare.gov/news/factsheets/2011/08/womensprevention08012011a.html

 

New Haven, CT

Alexandra Brodsky is a senior editor at Feministing.com and soon-to-be civil rights attorney. Alexandra also serves as the Board Chair of Know Your IX, a national student-led movement to end gender violence, which she co-founded and previously co-directed. Alexandra has written for publications including the New York Times, the Atlantic, the Guardian, and the Nation, and she is the co-editor of The Feminist Utopia Project: 57 Visions of a Wildly Better Future. She has spoken about violence against women and reproductive justice at campuses across the country and on MSNBC, ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, FOX, ESPN, and NPR.

Alexandra Brodsky is a senior editor at Feministing.com and soon-to-be civil rights attorney.

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