August 3, 2012 — An evangelical university in Illinois suing over a new HHS requirement to include emergency contraception in its employee health plan covered the drugs when the federal policy was announced, the Huffington Post reports.
In a request on Wednesday for a preliminary injunction, Wheaton College argued that because it believes EC is the equivalent of an abortion, it should not have to abide by the contraceptive coverage rules being implemented under the Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148) (Bassett, Huffington Post, 8/2). The rules are part of the ACA's women's preventive services provision, which requires health plans issued or renewed after Aug. 1 to cover various services without copayments or deductibles. HHS has given religiously affiliated entities, such as colleges and hospitals, a one-year delay period to come into compliance, and religious institutions, such as churches and synagogues, are exempt altogether (Women's Health Policy Report, 8/2).
Wheaton is not eligible for the one-year delay because an "institution has to certify that it has not covered contraceptives after February 10, 2012," said Emily Hardman, communications director for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which is assisting the college in the suit.
"[F]or a short time after February 10, Wheaton's policies inadvertently covered emergency contraceptives," she said, adding that the college "was in the process of fixing that error" at the time (Huffington Post, 8/2).
Inside Higher Ed reports that Wheaton's health plans began covering EC after Illinois in 2003 enacted a law requiring all insurers to treat FDA-approved contraceptives the same as other prescriptions. The college said it switched to self-funded prescription insurance plans when it realized its BlueCross BlueShield plans included the coverage. However, the switch was not complete until April of this year (Nelson, Inside Higher Ed, 8/3).