The rules outline how employers can comply with a federal requirement that most health plans offer contraceptive coverage for their workers. Houses of worship are exempt from the requirement, and religiously affiliated not-for-profits are eligible for an accommodation that ensures they do not have to pay for or directly provide the coverage to their employees (Bassett, Huffington Post, 6/28).
Friday's final rules largely mirror a proposal from February in which HHS maintained its position that for-profit businesses that oppose contraception are not exempt from the requirements or eligible for accommodations (Wayne, Bloomberg Businessweek, 6/28).
"The health care law guarantees millions of women access to recommended preventive services at no cost," HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a statement. She added, "Today's announcement reinforces our commitment to respect the concerns of houses of worship and other non-profit religious organizations that object to contraceptive coverage, while helping to ensure that women get the care they need, regardless of where they work" (Huffington Post, 6/28).
Details of Final Rules
Under the final accommodation, religiously affiliated hospitals, universities and other not-for-profits that oppose contraceptive coverage must notify their insurer of the objection. In the case of self-insured not-for-profits, they would notify a third-party administrator. The insurer or third-party administrator is responsible for informing enrollees that it will provide them with contraceptive coverage at no additional out-of-pocket cost.
The rules also finalize a simpler definition of "religious employer" for purposes of the exemption from the contraceptive coverage requirement (HHS release, 6/28).
Planned Parenthood Action Fund President Cecile Richards in a statement said, "This means that women will have access to birth control at no cost, no matter where they work," adding, "Birth control is basic health care for women, and this policy treats it like any other kind of preventive care. Throughout history, birth control has had a transformative impact on women's health, education, and economic opportunities, and this policy expands access to birth control like never before" (Huffington Post, 6/28).