Sunday, July 12, 2015

Final Accommodation Rules Adopted For Religious Objectors To ACA Contraceptive Coverage

The Obama Administration on Friday released final rules on accommodating religious objections to the Affordable Care Act requirement for health insurance coverage of contraceptive services. (Full text of Rules and accompanying release). The final rules, which provide for the insurer or policy administrator to provide contraceptive coverage directly when the employer objects to providing coverage, apply to any non-profit that holds itself out as a religious organization and has religious objections to covering some or all contraceptive items or services.

The accommodation also applies to any closely-held for-profit business entity where "the organization’s highest governing body (such as its board of directors...) has adopted a resolution or similar action, under the organization’s applicable rules of governance and consistent with state law, establishing that it objects to covering some or all of the contraceptive services on account of the owners’ sincerely held religious beliefs." The final rules define a closely-held entity as one whose shares or ownership interests are not publicly traded and where more than 50% in value of its ownership interests is owned directly or indirectly (e.g. through a corporation or trust) by 5 or fewer individuals or families.

On the important question of the type of notice an objecting non-profit or closely-held business must furnish, the final rules carry forward the procedures currently in place. As summarized by the adopting Release:
These final regulations continue to allow eligible organizations to choose between using EBSA Form 700 [and furnishing it directly to the insurer or third party administrator] or the alternative process consistent with the Wheaton interim order. The alternative process provides that an eligible organization may notify HHS in writing of its religious objection to covering all or a subset of contraceptive services. The notice must include the name of the eligible organization and the basis on which it qualifies for an accommodation; its objection based on sincerely held religious beliefs....; the plan name and type...; and the name and contact information for any of the plan’s third party administrators and health insurance issuers.
Health Affairs Blog has more on the new rules. A Friday press release from the Becket Fund continues to express strong opposition to the Final Rules. [Thanks to Mark Scarberry via Religionlaw for the lead.]