Today, the Obama administration issued final rules that balance the goal of providing women with coverage for recommended preventive care -- including contraceptive services prescribed by a health care provider -- with no cost-sharing, with the goal of respecting the concerns of non-profit religious organizations that object to contraceptive coverage. The final rules reflect public feedback received in response to the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking issued in February 2013.
"The health care law guarantees millions of women access to recommended preventive services at no cost," said Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. "Today's announcement reinforces our commitment to respect the concerns of houses of worship and other non-profit religious organizations that object to contraceptive coverage, while helping to ensure that women get the care they need, regardless of where they work."
Today's final rules finalize the proposed simpler definition of "religious employer" for purposes of the exemption from the contraceptive coverage requirement in response to concerns raised by some religious organizations. These employers, primarily houses of worship, may exclude contraceptive coverage from their health plans for their employees and their dependents.
The final rules also lay out the accommodation for other non-profit religious organizations - such as non-profit religious hospitals and institutions of higher education - that object to contraceptive coverage. Under the accommodation these organizations will not have to contract, arrange, pay for or refer contraceptive coverage to which they object on religious grounds, but such coverage is separately provided to women enrolled in their health plans at no cost. The approach taken in the final rules is similar to, but simpler than, that taken in the proposed rules, and responds to comments made by many stakeholders.
With respect to an insured health plan, including a student health plan, the non-profit religious organization provides notice to its insurer that it objects to contraception coverage. The insurer then notifies enrollees in the health plan that it is providing them separate no-cost payments for contraceptive services for as long as they remain enrolled in the health plan.
Similarly, with respect to self-insured health plans, the non-profit religious organization provides notice to its third party administrator that objects to contraception coverage. The third party administrator then notifies enrollees in the health plans that it is providing or arranging separate no-cost payments for contraceptive services for them for as long as they remain enrolled in the health plan.
The final rules provide more details on the accommodation for both insurers and third party administrators.
The final rules strike the appropriate between respecting the religious considerations raised by non-profit religious organizations and increasing access to important preventive services for women.
The final rules are available here: http://www.ofr.gov/OFRUpload/OFRData/2013-15866_PI.pdf
For more information about today's final rules visit: http://www.cms.gov/CCIIO/Resources/Fact-Sheets-and-FAQs/womens-preven-02012013.html