The Department of Health and Human Services announced new rules governing enforcement of the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate on Friday, expanding exemptions for insurance providers with religious or moral objections to contraception.
One new rule, which will take effect immediately, exempts a broad list of entities with religious objections to contraception from the law’s mandate. These include: nonprofits, employers, plan sponsors, and institutions of higher education. They also include exemptions for objecting individuals who do not wish to be covered by plans which provide contraception, even if their employer willfully provides it. Also exempt are certain insurance companies that provide insurance to these newly exempt groups.
A separate rule permits certain exemptions for "moral convictions" that are not religious in character, a practice HHS said comports with "Congress’s long history of providing or supporting conscience protections in the regulation of sensitive health-care issues."
The new rules substantially expand the kinds of entities that are exempt from the contraceptive mandate.
Obamacare’s rules initially required all employers to cover women’s contraception in the insurance they provided to employees, only carving out exemptions for churches and houses of worship. In response to objection from religious businesses, nonprofits, hospitals, colleges, and individuals, the administration created an "accommodation" through which religious entities could notify the insurance company with which they contract that they have religious objections; the insurance company would then be required to cover contraception for female employees directly.
This accommodation was deemed insufficient by many religious organizations, which argued that they were still responsible for sponsoring the plans as a whole,