Religious employers – primarily churches and other non-profits – will no longer have to provide contraceptive coverage if they have religious objections under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act if proposed amendments by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services are implemented.
The department released the notice of proposed rulemaking filed Friday, seeking comment on the proposals by April 8. Under the proposed accommodations, the eligible organizations wouldn’t have to pay, contract or arrange for any contraceptive coverage if they object on religious grounds. But plan participants would receive contraceptive coverage through a separate individual health insurance policy without cost sharing or additional premiums, according to HHS.
The PPACA, enacted in March 2010, requires non-grandfathered group health plans and insurance issuers offering non-grandfathered group or individual health insurance coverage to provide certain preventative health services without imposing cost sharing, which includes preventive care and screening for women. Many religious organizations, such as schools and hospitals, objected to this provision and have filed lawsuits.
For-profit secular businesses have also challenged the requirement in court, but they would not be exempted from providing these areas of coverage under the mandate issued last week. The federal agencies involved in these rule changes say that the religious accommodations in related areas of federal law, such as the exemption for religious organizations under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, are only available to nonprofit religious organizations.
A lawsuit filed by the University of Notre Dame last year challenging the requirement under the PPACA was dismissed in January in federal court.
On Jan. 30, however, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals held that a private, secular company in southern Indiana does not have to provide its employees contraceptive and other coverage that conflict with the employer’s Catholic beliefs, pending the appeal in the lawsuit. The federal appellate court combined William D. Grote III, et al. v. Kathleen Sebelius, 13-1077, with a similar challenge out of Illinois.
Eligible organizations under this mandate will provide a self-certification to the health insurance issuer, or the organization would notify the third-party administrator in the case of self-insured group health plans, to work with a health insurance company to provide the separate coverage.