Biden-Harris Administration Proposes New Rule to Improve Access to Birth Control at No Cost
The Biden-Harris Administration has proposed a new rule to make it easier for women to access birth control at no cost under the Affordable Care Act, reversing the Trump-era rules that weakened the law’s contraceptive mandate for employer-provided health insurance plans. The proposed rule would provide a mechanism for individuals and their covered dependents to “navigate their own care and still obtain birth control at no cost in the event their plan or insurer has a religious exemption,” the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services said in a press release.
Under the ACA, private insurance plans must provide certain preventive services, such as birth control, for free. But regulations expanded religious belief and moral convictions exemptions in 2018, a move that allowed private health plans and insurers to exclude contraceptive service coverage. However, the Trump administration reduced the strength of the mandate. In 2018, entities that possess a genuine religious conviction against offering contraceptives do not have to comply with the requirement to provide them. Organizations and small businesses are also covered under that provision if they state objections based on morality, independent of religious beliefs.
In a press release, HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra emphasized the importance of access to and coverage of birth control, saying: “Now more than ever, this is critical.” The new rule that has been suggested aims to guarantee that the numerous women throughout the nation who have already taken advantage of the ACA and those who will in the future will be safeguarded. This regulation tells women all over the country, “We are here to support you.”
The proposed rule would leave the religious exemption and its optional accommodation for birth control access in place, but also creates an independent pathway for people under these plans to access contraceptive services directly from a willing provider without any cost. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) anticipates that the proposed policy would have an impact on over 100 companies and 125,000 employees, mainly by establishing an independent route for employees to acquire contraception at no cost.
The public is invited to submit comments on the proposed rule over the next 60 days through this link. Those who have a stake in the matter will have a period of 60 days to submit their feedback on the Should the rule be finalized, senior officials at the HHS believe that it is “plausible” for religiously affiliated employers to bring potential lawsuits, as has been seen in the past.
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1. “CMS proposes rules to expand access to contraception under ACA” FierceHealthcare, 30 Jan. 2023, https://www.fiercehealthcare.com/payers/cms-proposes-rules-expand-access-contraception-under-aca
2. “First on CNN: Biden administration to strengthen Obamacare contraceptive mandate in proposed rule” YakTriNews KAPP-KVEW, 30 Jan. 2023, https://www.yaktrinews.com/news/politics/national-politics/first-on-cnn-biden-administration-to-strengthen-obamacare-contraceptive-mandate-in-proposed-rule/article_9442fde7-d93c-57d8-af74-6a6f21d8fbaf.html
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