HHS proposes contraception coverage rules

Feb. 1, 2013 at 2:46 PM

WASHINGTON, Feb. 1 (UPI) -- The Obama administration Friday proposed rules concerning providing contraceptive health coverage that would accommodate some U.S. religious organizations.

The proposed rules, available for public comment, would provide women with coverage for preventive care that includes birth control without co-pays, while also respecting concerns expressed by some religious organizations.

"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," Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a release. "We will continue to work with faith-based organizations, women's organizations, insurers and others to achieve these goals."

The Affordable Care Act initially required all employers to cover contraceptives as part of preventive health benefits for women. Some religious groups opposed the requirement, which they said would force them to go against their religious beliefs. Houses of worship would be exempt.

In February 2012, the Obama administration announced an accommodation for faith-based non-profits -- a third-party insurance company would cover the cost of contraceptive coverage.

The proposed rules announced Friday spell out how non-profit religious organizations -- such as hospitals, colleges or universities -- that object to contraception on religious grounds can receive an accommodation that provides enrollees separate contraceptive coverage with no co-pays, but at no cost to the religious organization.

For insured plans, the religious organizations would provide notice to their insurer, which would then notify enrollees it is providing them with no-cost contraceptive coverage through separate, individual health insurance policies.

For self-insured plans, the religious organizations would provide notice to their third-party administrator, who would work with an insurer to arrange no-cost contraceptive coverage through separate, individual health insurance policies.

The proposed rules also clarify the definition of "religious employer" for purposes of the exemption, the department said. These employers, primarily houses of worship, can exclude contraception coverage from their health plans for their employees.

The proposed rules are available here: http://www.ofr.gov/inspection.aspx. The proposed rules are open for public comment through April 8.

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