Obama Changes Health Insurance Coverage Of Birth Control For Religious Employers

The Obama administration released new details this morning about which religious employers will be exempt from covering the cost of birth control under health care reform — which the Associated Press describes as a “broader opt-out.”

The Health and Human Services Department announced this morning that businesses which object must “self-certify that they are non-profits with religion as a core part of their mission,” according to The Huffington Post. For example, you can’t just object to covering women’s preventative care if you are, for example, a religious Catholic who objects to birth control and also happens to employ people working at a nonprofit animal shelter. Additionally, if a religious nonprofit refuses to provide coverage of contraception, a third-party health insurer must handle the coverage for women who want it.

“Today, the administration is taking the next step in providing women across the nation with coverage of recommended preventive care at no cost, while respecting religious concerns,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in a statement. “We will continue to work with faith-based organizations, women’s organizations, insurers and others to achieve these goals.” You can read the specifics of the new coverage rules here on this Center For Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight fact sheet.

Since August 1, 2012, women’s preventative health care like birth control have been available without co-pays or deductibles. Presently under the Affordable Care Act, there is a compromise for religious employers: houses of worship (such as a Catholic church) and religious nonprofits that primarily employ people of the same faith, like schools and hospitals, are exempt from covering contraception if it is against their personal beliefs. The latter may opt out and then the cost of coverage will be footed by their health insurer.

But still, numerous employers have filed lawsuits against the government objecting to covering birth control, claiming the Obama administration’s compromise was too narrow. Some employers who objected were religiously affiliated  while others were simply religious folks who ran secular businesses, such as a store called the Hobby Lobby, which is run by Christians claiming their religious freedom is being denied. Those employers will presumably still be hopping mad at the government over Obamacare.

Women’s reproductive rights activists are cautiously accepting of the changes. From a statement by NARAL Pro-Choice America:

Based on an initial review, NARAL Pro-Choice America is optimistic that these new draft regulations will make near-universal contraceptive coverage a reality.”

Added Planned Parenthood Federation Of America in a statement:

This policy delivers on the promise of women having access to birth control without co-pays no matter where they work. Of course, we are reviewing the technical aspects of this proposal, but the principle is clear and consistent. This policy makes it clear that your boss does not get to decide whether you can have birth control.

What do you think of the new changes? Let us know in the comments.

[Huffington Post]
[Center For Consumer Information & Insurance Oversight Fact Sheet]
[NARAL Pro-Choice America]
[Planned Parenthood Federation Of America]

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