The government recently released a joint agency rule finalizing and expanding exemptions for various entities and individuals with sincerely held moral convictions opposed to coverage of some or all contraceptive or sterilization methods that are otherwise required under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
Under ACA, employer-provided health insurance plans must cover certain “preventative services,” which were defined through guidance as including all contraception methods approved by the Food and Drug Administration, including methods viewed by some individuals and employers as abortifacients, and sterilization procedures.
This “moral conviction” final rule gives nonprofit organizations, small businesses, and individuals that have nonreligious moral convictions opposing services covered by the contraceptive mandate protections that are similar to protections for religious organizations and businesses.
The regulations exempt entities from providing an otherwise mandated contraceptive item (or an item or services which they consider to be abortifacient) to which they object based on their moral conviction. The entities include:
- churches, integrated auxiliaries, and religious orders with religious objections;
- nonprofit organizations with religious or moral objections;
- for-profit entities that are not publicly traded, with religious or moral objections;
- for-profit entities that are publicly traded, with religious objections;
- other nongovernmental employers with religious objections;
- nongovernmental institutions of higher education with religious or moral objections;
- individuals with religious or moral objections, with employer sponsored or individual market coverage, where the plan sponsor and/or issuer (as applicable) are willing to offer them a plan omitting contraceptive coverage to which they object;
- health insurance issuers with religious or moral objections, to the extent they provide coverage to a plan sponsor or individual that is also exempt.
The Departments estimate that the exemptions should affect about 200 employers with religious or moral objections. Many entities will not be affected because they are covered under the previous rules not to cover contraceptives, or they are protected by permanent court injunctions. The Departments estimate the exemptions may affect the coverage of approximately 6,400 women, but no more than 127,000 women.
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