July 13, 2015 — In a Los Angeles Times opinion piece, columnist Jon Healey calls for critics of the Affordable Care Act's (PL 111-148) contraceptive coverage rules "to drop the pretense," writing that opponents' challenges to the rules are "no longer about employers being required to pay for contraceptives" but rather "about employees being able to obtain them."
According to Healy, under "final rules released Friday, like the ones that have been in effect since last August ... religious-affiliated nonprofits and closely held for-profit firms [have] an easy way to disassociate themselves completely from their employees' use of birth control." He explains that eligible "[e]mployers simply have to notify" HHS that they offer insurance and "have a religious objection to providing contraceptive coverage." HHS then "instructs the employer's insurer to provide contraceptive coverage to the firm's female employees at no out-of-pocket cost," which means that the "coverage is paid for by the insurer" or a third-party administrator.
Despite the accommodation, "some opponents of the rules continue to claim that they are being forced to promote actions that are, to them, immoral," Healey writes. However, he notes that "by the same logic, religious employers are helping to execute prisoners, grant divorces and issue marriage licenses to gay couples simply by paying sales taxes to state and local governments." He writes, "In other words, money is fungible. If you're trying to insulate yourself from other people's behavior, the best you can hope to do is make sure you're not paying for it directly."
Further, Healey contends that "it's fallacious to argue that employers are forced to be complicit in their workers' use of contraceptives." He explains that the contraceptive coverage rules were put in place by the federal government, "which requires that all adult women carry insurance policies that make contraceptives available at no extra charge -- and that all large employers provide such plans."
"Five federal appeals courts have noted the fallacy in the employers'" legal challenges to the rules, Healy writes. However, he notes that "[t]he Supreme Court is still reviewing similar cases, so the circuit rulings may not be the final word on the subject" (Healey, Los Angeles Times, 7/11).