The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), saying it was taking "several steps to help ensure women, whose coverage is threatened, receive coverage for recommended contraceptive services at no additional cost, as they should be entitled to under the Affordable Care Act (ACA)," has issued an Interim Final Rule on the subject of religious objections to offering such services.
The rules announced on Friday address both non-profits and closely held for-profit entities:
Interim Final Rule for Non-Profits: a second pathway
The interim final regulations lay out an additional way for organizations eligible for an accommodation to provide notice of their religious objection to providing coverage for contraceptive services. The rule allows these eligible organizations to notify the Department of Health and Human Services in writing of their religious objection to providing contraception coverage. HHS and the Department of Labor will then notify insurers and third party administrators so that enrollees in plans of such organizations receive separate coverage for contraceptive services, with no additional cost to the enrollee or the employer. The interim final rule solicits comments, but goes into effect upon publication.
Closely Held For-Profit Entities
The Administration is also issuing a proposed rule soliciting comments on how it might extend to certain closely held for-profit entities, like Hobby Lobby, the same accommodation that is available to non-profit religious organizations. Under the proposal, these companies would not have to contract, arrange, pay or refer for contraceptive coverage to which they object on religious grounds. The proposal seeks comment on how to define a closely held for-profit company and whether other steps might be appropriate to implement this policy.