The Departments have released an interim final rule following the President’s recent action regarding the contraceptive mandate under the ACA.
“These interim final rules expand exemptions to protect religious beliefs for certain entities and individuals whose health plans are subject to a mandate of contraceptive coverage through guidance issued pursuant to the [ACA]”
It is worth noting that the ACA itself does not contain the provision mandating contraceptive coverage with no cost share, rather this was a mandate found in guidance issued by HHS, which implemented aspects of the ACA.
Importantly, the rules still require a health plan to cover contraceptives at no cost share when no ‘regulatory recognized object exists’ by the employer sponsoring the health plan. This means that the new rules offer an exemption to employers or insurers who object based sincerely on religious beliefs to offering the coverage, and those who have ‘moral convictions’ against it.
Exemptions granted for ‘moral objections’ will only be an option for nonprofit employers, or for-profit employers with no publicly traded ownership interests. It is not a blanket reversal of the contraceptive mandate.
The comment period for the proposed rule is open through early December. At that time, more information about the necessary steps for employers objecting to the mandate to take will be available.
The full text of the rule is available here.