Obama’s New Birth Control Rules Looks for Middle Ground
The Obama administration proposed new health insurance rules covering the cost of birth control in response to the complaints from religiously affiliated groups. The White House laid out a plan to ensure coverage without requiring faith-based groups to pay for it.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said the administration wanted to look at a balance between two principles in its rule-making. The administration wants to ensure that women have access to preventive services such as contraception and that the policy respects religious beliefs.
The Affordable Care Act requires employers to provide full health care coverage for contraception but the rule exempts houses of worship such as churches and synagogues. Other nonprofit organizations with religious affiliations, like a Catholic university, were expected to comply with the rule. This resulted in several lawsuits filed against the Obama administration.
The new proposed rules would have non-profit religious organizations ensure their enrollees of health care plans get full contraception coverage but they wouldn’t have to pay for it. The health insurer would be the one to pay for it.
The faith-based organizations would have to notify their insurer or third party administrator if they objected to paying for contraception costs based on their religious beliefs. The insurer would then have to provide enrollees with no-cost contraceptive coverage via separate individual health insurance policies.
The Health and Human Services said that insurers should find providing contraceptive coverage cost neutral. As preventive services such as birth control lower overall health costs. Self-insured religious organizations would find an insurer to cover the cost via a third party administrator. In order to pay for those costs, the insurer would get a deduction in the fees it must pay to join the federally-facilitated health exchange that will be implemented next year.
The new proposals also simplified the definition of religious employer. This made it easier to identify group exempted from the contraception coverage requirement. The new definition is based on IRS tax category and is not expected to expand the number of exempted groups.