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Proposed Federal Rule Announced Related to Religious Objection to Birth Control

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS), Labor and Treasury have proposed a rule to strengthen access to birth control coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). For more information on the proposed rule, consult this HHS fact sheet. Under the ACA, most group health plans (GHPs) are required to offer coverage of birth control with no out-of-pocket cost. For those few plans that do not offer such coverage due to a religious objection, the proposed rule seeks to ensure broader access by allowing enrollees to make their own choices to access contraceptive services at no cost. The rule is subject to a comment period and it will be months before the proposed rule might ultimately be finalized. Potentially impacted GHP sponsors should stay tuned for updates from Conner Strong & Buckelew, but otherwise operate as usual.

Biden Administration’s Continued Efforts to Protect Reproductive Health Care The issuance of the proposed rule is the latest effort by the Biden Administration to bolster access to birth control at no cost. The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs has placed a heightened importance on access to contraceptive services nationwide. HHS released a report in August on actions taken to ensure access to reproductive health care, including contraception, following the Supreme Court’s ruling, with further details on future actions and commitments. In addition, HHS also recently released a report which outlines the actions HHS has taken in the face of the health crisis precipitated by the Dobbs decision.

Next Steps if Rule is Finalized If this proposed rule is finalized, individuals in GHPs that would otherwise be subject to the ACA preventive services requirements but do not cover contraceptive services because of a moral or religious objection, would now have access. The proposed rule would leave in place the existing religious exemption for entities with objections, as well as the optional accommodation for contraception, but it would create an independent pathway for individuals enrolled in plans arranged or offered by objecting entities to make their own choice to access contraceptive services directly through a willing contraceptive provider without any costs. This would allow women and covered dependents to navigate their own care and obtain birth control if their plan or insurer has a religious objection. The individual contraceptive arrangement would not require any involvement on the part of an objecting entity.

We will provide alerts and updates as new information becomes available. Please contact your Conner Strong & Buckelew account representative toll-free at 1-877-861-3220 with any questions. For a complete list of Legislative Updates issued by Conner Strong & Buckelew, visit our online Resource Center.


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