Last updated on: 6/30/2014 2:42:27 PM PST
Are There Any Exemptions to the Obamacare Requirement That Health Insurance Policies Cover Birth Control? - YES
The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) published the following rule on July 2, 2013, "Coverage of Certain Preventive Services Under the Affordable Care Act; Final Rules," available at www.hhs.gov:
"§ 147.131 Exemption and accommodations in connection with coverage of preventive health services.
(a) Religious employers. In issuing guidelines under § 147.130(a)(1)(iv), the Health Resources and Services Administration may establish an exemption from such guidelines with respect to a group health plan established or maintained by a religious employer (and health insurance coverage provided in connection with a group health plan established or maintained by a religious employer) with respect to any requirement to cover contraceptive services under such guidelines. For purposes of this paragraph (a), a 'religious employer' is an organization that is organized and operates as a nonprofit entity and is referred to in section 6033(a)(3)(A)(i) or (iii) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended.
(b) Eligible organizations. An eligible organization is an organization that satisfies all of the following requirements:
(1) The organization opposes providing coverage for some or all of any contraceptive services required to be covered under § 147.130(a)(1)(iv) on account of religious objections.
(2) The organization is organized and operates as a nonprofit entity.
(3) The organization holds itself out as a religious organization.
(4) The organization self-certifies, in a form and manner specified by the Secretary, that it satisfies the criteria in paragraphs (b)(1) through (3) of this section, and makes such self-certification available for examination upon request by the first day of the first plan year to which the accommodation in paragraph (c) of this section applies. The self-certification must be executed by a person authorized to make the certification on behalf of the organization, and must be maintained in a manner consistent with the record retention requirements under section 107 of the Employee Retirement."
July 2, 2013
[Editor's Note: On June 30, 2014, the United States Supreme Court ruled (5-4) in the case Burwell v. Hobby Lobby (512 KB) that the Obamacare contraceptive coverage requirement violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) of 1993.
The ruling, authored by Justice Alito, stated in part: "We must decide in these cases whether the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993... permits the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to demand that three closely held corporations provide health-insurance coverage for methods of contraception that violate the sincerely held religious beliefs of the companies' owners. We hold that the regulations that impose this obligation violate RFRA, which prohibits the Federal Government from taking any action that substantially burdens the exercise of religion unless that action constitutes the least restrictive means of serving a compelling government interest."]
June 30, 2014
The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) stated the following in a June 28, 2013 news release "Administration Issues Final Rules on Contraception Coverage and Religious Organizations," available at www.hhs.gov:
"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...
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."
Robert Pear, MPhil, New York Times Domestic Reporter, stated the following in his June 28, 2013 article "Contraceptives Stay Covered in Health Law," available at the New York Times website:
"Despite strong resistance from religious organizations, the Obama administration said Friday that it was moving ahead with a rule requiring most employers to provide free insurance coverage of contraceptives for women...
The final rule, issued under the new health care law, adopts a simplified version of an approach proposed by the government in February to balance the interests of women with the concerns of the Roman Catholic Church and other employers with religious objections to providing coverage for contraceptives...
The rule, they said, is very similar to their proposal. An exemption is included for churches. But many Catholic hospitals, schools, universities and other religious institutions will have to take steps so that coverage is available to employees and their dependents...
Among the 'essential health benefits' that must be provided [under Obamacare] are preventive services. In particular, the administration says, most health plans must cover sterilization and the full range of contraceptive methods approved by the Food and Drug Administration, including emergency contraceptive pills, like those known as ella and Plan B One-Step.
Under the rule issued Friday, the government said certain 'religious employers' — primarily houses of worship — may exclude contraceptive coverage from their health plans for employees and their dependents. In effect, they will be exempt from the federal requirement to provide contraceptive coverage."
[Editor's Note: Based upon a neutral reading of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and bi-partisan third party analysis, this question seems to have a clear and obvious Pro (yes) answer, and ProCon.org has therefore presented the responses in a single column with no opposing perspective.]