New contraceptive coverage rules spark strong industry reactions, legal challenges

New regulations from the Trump administration, which allow a wider swath of employers to opt out of covering contraception, have sparked swift condemnation and even legal challenges from some groups.

Six medical societies, including the American College of Physicians and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, issued a joint letter urging the administration to “immediately withdraw” the rules.

“Contraception is an integral part of preventive care and a medical necessity for women during approximately 30 years of their lives,” the letter states. “Access to no-copay contraception leads to healthier women and families.”

Not only would they inappropriately insert a patient’s employer into the physician-patient relationship, but they could also open the door to moral exemptions for other essential preventive services, like immunizations, the groups say.

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In California, Attorney General Xavier Becerra filed a lawsuit against the new rules, arguing that they will allow employers to discriminate against female employees.

“The California Department of Justice will fight to protect every woman’s right to healthcare, including reproductive healthcare,” Becerra said. “We'll see the Trump administration in court.”

The American Civil Liberties Union is also turning to litigation to challenge the regulations. The group said Friday that it plans to sue the administration on behalf of the Service Employees International Union-United Health Care Workers West and its members who risk losing their contraceptive coverage because of where they work or where they go to school.

Any nonprofit or “closely held” for-profit employer with moral objections to the ACA’s contraceptive coverage requirement already qualified for an exemption, per the Kaiser Family Foundation. But the new rules go further, allowing any employer or college/university with a student health plan to seek an exemption based on religious beliefs.

As a result, for many women the choice of contraceptive methods could once again be limited by cost, placing some of the most effective, yet costly methods of contraception out of their financial reach, the issue brief says.

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Some groups, however, hailed the decision. National Right to Life, an anti-abortion group, said the rules would “protect moral and religious rights of conscience,” which help protect medical professionals, religious institutions and employers “from being forced to participate in abortion.”

“We commend President Trump for keeping his campaign promises by supporting these rights of conscience,” said the group’s president, Carol Tobias.