White House axes birth control coverage requirement; Democrats attempt to reverse

On Friday, Oct. 6, the Trump administration issued “interim final rules” to override the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate.

The new rules coming from the departments of Health and Human Services, Treasury and Labor give employers greater leeway when it comes to denying birth control coverage to their female employees.

According to the rules, any for-profit or non-profit employer with “sincerely held religious beliefs” or “sincerely held moral convictions” that oppose birth control may obtain an exemption from including contraceptive coverage in their health insurance plans.

“The United States has a long history of providing conscience protections in the regulation of health care for entities and individuals with objections based on religious beliefs or moral convictions,” explained the agencies in defense of the new rules. 

Previously under Section 2713 of the 2010 Affordable Care Act, birth control was considered an insured preventative health service and employers were required to provide FDA-approved and cleared contraceptive methods at no cost.

Cecile Richards, the President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, slammed the Trump administration’s move:

This is an unacceptable attack on basic health care that the vast majority of women rely on. With this rule in place, any employer could decide that their employees no longer have health insurance coverage for birth control,” she said in a press release.

Conversely, Christian conservative groups, along with some Republicans on Capitol Hill, lauded the decision for restoring “religious liberty,” while the White House further explained it will discourage “risky sexual behavior” among younger adults.

“Under the Obama administration, this constitutional right (First Amendment) was seriously eroded,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan.

Employers who take advantage of the new rules will force their female employees to pay the full price for birth control, which can become quite expensive over time. Women may equally choose to forego birth control altogether due to extenuating costs.

Health and Human Services claims that only one percent of the more than 55 million women currently covered will be affected by the new rules.

While the ACLU and the states of California and Massachusetts immediately filed a lawsuit following the introduction of the new rules, Senate Democrats on Thursday introduced legislation that would restore the mandate.  Democrats in the House are also expected to offer a similar bill, although the prospects for success are slim.

 

[Reuters] [CNBC] [The Hill] [Photo courtesy Teen Health Source]