Healthcare Reform: New Rules for Birth Control Coverage

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again…

Since its introduction in August 2011, the contraceptive coverage mandate – which requires employer-sponsored health plans to include coverage for birth control medications and devices – has been one of the more controversial provisions of the Obama Administration’s healthcare reform measures. Jean Hemphill of law firm Ballard Spahr explains:

“While the original release of the preventive health standards … included an exemption and temporary enforcement safe harbor for religious employers, a number of religious organizations and private employers objected vehemently, filing comments and lawsuits to prevent the proposal’s enforcement.”

To appease critics, the administration has proposed three separate revisions to the original rule, the latest on January 30, 2013.

Time will tell if the most recent compromise will succeed where the others did not. In the meantime, here’s a look at three key takeaways for employers:

1. Definition of “religious employer” is clarified:

“The proposed rule simplifies the existing definition of a ‘religious employer’ as it relates to contraceptive coverage by eliminating criteria that a religious employer: (1) have the inculcation of religious values as its purpose; (2) primarily employ persons who share its religious tenets; and (3) primarily serve persons who share its religious tenets. The simple definition of “religious employer” for purposes of the exemption would primarily include churches, other houses of worship, and their affiliated organizations, including hospitals, schools and universities.” (Leonard, Street and Deinard)

2. No relief for secular employers who object to the mandate on religious grounds:

“The exemptions are not available to private employers owned by individuals whose religious convictions also conflict with the inclusion of contraceptive coverage under the plans they provide to their employees.” (Ballard Spahr)

3. The criteria for exemption may still be too narrow to satisfy critics:

“While the Proposed Rule broadens the range of employers who qualify for the religious exemption, there are still a number of religiously-affiliated institutions (such as non-profit schools and hospitals) that have objected to the coverage requirement but do not qualify for the religious employer exemption.” (Mintz Levin)

The updates:

Find additional Contraceptive Coverage Mandate updates on JD Supra>>