August 22, 2014 — HHS on Friday announced two rules designed to preserve contraceptive coverage under the Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148) in light of recent court decisions on the issue, MSNBC reports.
The changes are meant to address gaps in coverage created by the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby ruling, which allowed a business to deny contraceptive coverage in its employer-sponsored health plan, as well as the court's decision to grant an injunction to Wheaton College, an evangelical university that objected to filling out a form that would authorize a third party to provide the coverage for its employees and students (Carmon, MSNBC, 8/22).
"Women across the country deserve access to recommended preventive services that are important to their health, no matter where they work," HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell said (Bassett, Huffington Post, 8/22).
Rule for Religious Not-for-Profits
One rule maintains the accommodation for religiously affiliated not-for-profits that object to contraceptive coverage but creates a second way for those entities to inform the government of their objections (MSNBC, 8/22).
Under the new option, religiously affiliated not-for-profits can send a letter to HHS stating that they object to offering contraceptive coverage in their health plans. Such organizations still have the option of filling out the form if they prefer.
The rule takes effect immediately upon publication, but HHS will take comments, it said.
Comments Sought on Accommodation for For-Profit Entities
The second rule seeks comments on allowing the same accommodation for "closely held for-profit entities, like Hobby Lobby."
Specifically, HHS called for comments "on how to define a closely held for-profit company and whether other steps might be appropriate to implement this policy" (HHS release, 8/22).