Thursday, June 01, 2017

Draft of Proposed Broader Contraceptive Mandate Exemption Becomes Available

As previously reported, the Office of Management and Budget has under review interim final rules that will expand conscience exemptions from the Obamacare contraceptive coverage mandate. A "leaked" 125-page draft of the Release proposing the rules (full text) has now become available.  The rules expand the complete exemption from the contraceptive coverage mandate to any entity that has religious beliefs or moral convictions objecting to some or all contraceptive coverage. This includes churches, any non-profit organization (religious or otherwise), closely-held for-profit companies, and publicly-held for-profit companies.  The rule also assures an exemption for any individual who objects to being covered or paying for some or all contraceptive services because of sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions.

As explained by the Release:
These interim final rules expand exemptions for religious beliefs and moral convictions for certain entities or individuals whose health plans may otherwise be subject to a mandate of contraceptive coverage through guidance issued pursuant to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). These rules do not alter the discretion of the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), to maintain the guideline requiring contraceptive coverage where no such objection exists. These rules also leave the accommodation process in place as an optional process for certain exempt entities who wish to use it voluntarily.
Because these would be promulgated as Interim Final Rules rather than as Proposed Rules, they would go into effect immediately, with public comment on whether the Interim Rules should be modified or become permanent in their current form coming after the Interim Rules' effectiveness.  This is permitted under the Administrative Procedure Act for rules that grant an exemption or relieve a restriction. (5 USC Sec. 553(d)). Vox yesterday had more on the proposed rules.