On Friday, the Obama administration offered a change in the contraceptive mandate of the Affordable Healthcare Act to allow religious employers exclude contraceptive from healthcare of their employees, without affecting the ability of those employees to access free birth-control coverage.
The administration said that in such cases, where a religious employer excludes contraceptive from the healthcare plans, insurance companies would bear the cost of providing contraception.
While this change had been in the talks for quite some time, Friday’s announcement broadened the scope of exemption from those running houses of worship to include faith-based organizations like hospitals and universities.
According to the compromise offered, free contraception would be provided to employees of faith-based organizations under a plan separate from the healthcare policy maintained by the employer. So, in effect, it would save religious organizations from “contracting, arranging, paying or referring for such coverage.”
Sarah Lipton, policy analyst of the ACLU said that the new rule offered “seamless coverage” of contraception to those who could have been affected by exemption of faith-based organizations.
Kathleen Sebelius, the Health and Human Services Secretary said the compromise would provide “women across the nation with coverage of recommended preventive care at no cost, while respecting religious concerns.” Any costs for the scheme would be covered by a deduction in federal user fees for the policy user.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said that the rules provided “an accommodation” to religiously affiliated employers who are opposed to mandatory contraceptive coverage. Now employees and students could have separate contraceptive coverage without cost to the employer.
In case of self-insured employers, notice would be provided to a third-party administrator, which would then arrange no-cost contraceptive coverage through individual health insurance policies by working with an insurer.
The proposed rules are open for public comment for 60 days through April 8.