Interim Final Rules Provide Religious, Moral Exemptions to Obamacare Contraceptive Mandate

The Departments of Health and Human Services, Treasury and Labor this week announced two companion interim final rules that provide conscience protections to Americans who have a religious or moral objection to paying for health insurance that covers contraceptive/abortifacient services.

Obamacare-compliant health insurance plans are required to cover “preventive services,” a term defined through regulation. Under the existing regulatory requirements created by the previous administration, employers, unless they qualify for an exemption, must offer health insurance that covers all FDA-approved contraception, which includes medications and devices that may act as abortifacients as well as sterilization procedures.

Under the first of two companion rules released Oct.6, entities that have sincerely held religious beliefs against providing such services would no longer be required to do so. The second rule applies the same protections to organizations and small businesses that have objections on the basis of moral conviction which is not based in any particular religious belief.

In May, President Trump issued an “Executive Order Promoting Free Speech and Religious Liberty” in which the president directed the secretaries of Health and Human Services, Labor and the Treasury to consider amending existing regulations relative to Obamacare’s preventive-care mandate in order to address conscience-based objections.

Key Facts about today’s interim final rules:

  • The regulations exempt entities only from providing an otherwise mandated item to which they object on the basis of their religious beliefs or moral conviction.
  • The regulation leaves in place preventive services coverage guidelines where no religious or moral objection exists – meaning that out of millions of employers in the U.S., these exemptions may impact only about 200 entities, the number that that filed lawsuits based on religious or moral objections.
    • These rules will not affect over 99.9% of the 165 million women in the United States.
  • Current law itself already exempts over 25 million people from the preventive-care mandate because they are insured through an entity that has a health insurance plan that existed prior to the Obamacare statute.
  • The regulations leave in place government programs that provide free or subsidized contraceptive coverage to low income women, such as through community health centers.
  • These regulations do not ban any drugs or devices.
  • The mandate as defined by the previous administration suffered defeats in court after court, including the Supreme Court, which ruled that the government cannot punish business owners for their faith.

The IFR can be found here:

https://www.federalregister.gov/d/2017-21852

https://www.federalregister.gov/d/2017-21851


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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