Proposed rule: Insurers to pay for birth control at closely held companies

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The Obama administration proposed a new solution to the issue of closely held companies who object paying for certain contraceptive methods under the Affordable Care Act.

After the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June that Hobby Lobby and other similar companies don't have to include birth control in their health plans if the benefit violates their owners' religious beliefs, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services published a proposed rule saying that insurers would have to cover the cost of providing contraceptive coverage.

According to the proposal, closely held companies would notify the federal government that they object to covering contraceptives. HHS would then communicate with the companies' health insurers that they're responsible for paying for the birth control benefits.

"Today's announcement reinforces our commitment to providing women with access to coverage for contraception, while respecting religious considerations raised by nonprofit organizations and closely held for-profit companies," HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell said in a statement.

Meanwhile, not all insurers are following the birth control mandate. HHS stated that insurers must pay for all contraceptive methods that have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration, including birth control pills, the ring, patch, intrauterine devices and sterilization. Yet despite this guidance, some insurers are denying members certain contraceptives, reported Kaiser Health News.

"We've seen this happen, plenty," Adam Sonfield, a senior public policy associate at the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health research and education organization, told KHN. "Clearly insurance companies think things are ambiguous enough that they can get away with it."

To learn more:
- here's the HHS proposed rule and statement
- read the Kaiser Health News article