The Departments of Health and Human Services, Treasury, and Labor released two final rules to provide conscience protections for Americans who have a religious or moral objection to health insurance that covers contraception methods. Under the Affordable Care Act, employer-provided health insurance plans are required to cover certain “preventative services” – which were defined through guidance by the Obama Administration as including all contraception methods approved by the Food and Drug Administration, including methods viewed by many as abortifacients, and sterilization procedures.
In October 2017, the Trump Administration issued two interim final rules providing an exemption for those who had sincerely held religious or moral objections to such coverage, while seeking public comment on the rules. The first of today’s final rules provides an exemption from the contraceptive coverage mandate to entities that object to services covered by the mandate on the basis of sincerely held religious beliefs. The second final rule provides protections to nonprofit organizations and small businesses that have non-religious moral convictions opposing services covered by the mandate. The religious and moral exemptions provided by these rules also apply to institutions of education, issuers, and individuals. The Departments are not extending the moral exemption to publicly traded businesses, or either exemption to government entities.
- In May 2017, President Trump issued an executive order that the Departments consider amending existing regulations to address conscience-based objections to the contraceptive coverage requirements.
- Obamacare already exempts tens of millions of people from the preventive services coverage mandate because the mandate does not apply to plans insured through grandfathered coverage that existed prior to the law.
- The rules 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 or prohibit any employer from covering contraceptives.
- The Departments estimate the exemptions should affect no more than approximately 200 employers with religious or moral objections.
- The rules take effect 60 days after their publication in the Federal Register.
- To read a fact sheet with additional information on the final rules, visit: https://www.hhs.gov/about/news/2018/11/07/fact-sheet-final-rules-on-religious-and-moral-exemptions-and-accommodation-for-coverage-of-certain-preventive-services-under-affordable-care-act.html
- To read the final rule on exemptions for religious beliefs, visit: https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2018/11/15/2018-24512/religious-exemptions-and-accommodations-for-coverage-of-certain-preventive-services-under-the
- To read the final rule on exemptions for moral convictions, visit: https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2018/11/15/2018-24514/moral-exemptions-and-accommodations-for-coverage-of-certain-preventive-services-under-the-affordable