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Health and Human Services issues rule to deny contraception coverage based on religious, moral grounds

The law leaves in place government programs that provide free or subsidized contraceptive coverage to low income women.

Susan Morse, Senior Editor

The Department of Health and Human Services has released two final rules to allow individuals and organizations to opt out of insurance coverage for contraception based on religious and moral objections.

The first rule provides an exemption from the contraceptive coverage mandate under the Affordable Care Act to entities that object, based on religious beliefs, to the services covered.

The second provides protections to nonprofit organizations and small businesses that have non-religious moral convictions.

The exemptions are available to individuals, institutions of education and issuers, HHS said.

WHY THIS MATTERS

Under the Affordable Care Act, employer-provided health insurance plans are required to cover contraception methods approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

The contraceptive methods included abortifacients and sterilization procedures, which are objectionable to some.

The law leaves in place government programs, such as what's available through community centers, that provide free or subsidized contraceptive coverage to low income women.

HHS estimates that the exemptions should affect no more than about 200 employers with religious or moral objections.

The rule takes place 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.

THE TREND

In May 2017, President Trump issued an executive order to departments to consider amending existing regulations to address conscience-based objections.

Last year, the Trump Administration issued two interim final rules providing an exemption for those who had religious or moral objections to such coverage.

The ACA already exempts millions from the coverage mandate for those in grandfathered plans.

In 2000, the Employment Equal Opportunity Commission found that employers that covered preventive prescription drugs and services, but did not cover prescription contraceptives, were in violation of the Civil Rights Act.

Twitter: @SusanJMorse
Email the writer: susan.morse@himssmedia.com

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