Facts About The Changes To The ‘Contraception Mandate’ In The ACA


The Obama administration has released changes to the rule exempting religious organizations from covering prescription contraceptive coverage. The new rule is intended to create a distinct line between contraceptive coverage and religious organizations, allowing them to keep such coverage out of their policies while still allowing women who work for such organizations to obtain that coverage separately through their insurance providers, or via third party administrators, with no additional charges.

More than 40 lawsuits were filed regarding contraceptive coverage that argued the rule was too narrow, and a violation of religious freedom. The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, intended for contraception to be included as a preventive service, however religious organizations opposed to contraception (all types or just some) felt that the law forced them to pay for such coverage against their beliefs. Some organizations, like churches, were included under the original exemption, however, many religiously based non-profits weren’t.

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, the new rule simplifies the definition of what constitutes a religious organization as follows:

  1. Opposes providing coverage for some or all of any contraceptive services required to be covered under Section 2713 of the PHS Act, on account of religious objections;

  2. Is organized and operates as a nonprofit entity;

  3. Holds itself out as a religious organization; and

  4. Self-certifies that it meets these criteria and specifies the contraceptive services for which it objects to providing coverage.

It also requires insurers of qualifying organizations that have group plans to automatically offer separate coverage for contraception to plan participants, which would not carry additional premiums or out-of-pocket payments, such as co-pays and deductibles.

Qualifying organizations that are self-insured would work with their third party administrators to find an insurer to provide separate policies, again at no additional cost to participants.

The aim is to include most non-profit organizations that identify themselves as religious, and have religious objections to providing contraception.

The objections, however, didn’t stop at religious non-profits and houses of worship. Hobby Lobby, a for-profit chain of craft and hobby stores, also sued back in September, alleging that the mandate violated their religious freedom. Hobby Lobby’s owners have faced more than one denial to issue an injunction against the contraception mandate because the company is not a religious company, despite the beliefs of its owner and family.

The center of this lawsuit was the morning-after pill and the week-after pill, based on the owners’ belief that both of these types of contraception are essentially abortions. The owners also oppose some intra-uterine devices on the belief that they cause abortions as well by not allowing a fertilized egg to implant on the uterine wall. Judges have ruled against Hobby Lobby because they couldn’t prove that secular, for-profit companies are protected under the First Amendment the same way that religious organizations are.

In other words, merely calling yourself a religious organization based on the beliefs of you, the owner, does not mean you actually are a religious organization.

The whole point of the rule, and its changes, is to ensure that “non-profit organizations with religious objections won’t have to contract, arrange, pay, or refer for insurance coverage for these services to their employees or students.” It takes their involvement out of it entirely, which, ideally, addresses their religious and constitutional concerns.

Rika Christensen is an experienced writer and loves debating politics. Engage with her and see more of her work by following her on Facebook and Twitter.