KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

HHS Proposes Options For Contraception Coverage Rule

News outlets report on the Obama administration's plans to facilitate ways religiously-affiliated institutions could avoid paying for birth control for their female employees, while complying with coverage rules in the health law.

The New York Times: U.S. Clarifies Policy on Birth Control for Religious Groups
The Obama administration took another step on Friday to enforce a federal mandate for health insurance coverage of contraceptives, announcing how the new requirement would apply to the many Roman Catholic hospitals, universities and social service agencies that insure themselves. The coverage will be provided by the companies that review and pay claims — “third-party administrators” — or by “some other independent entity,” it said (Pear, 3/16).

Politico: HHS Spells Out New Options For Contraception Coverage Rule
[T]he administration is considering three options for self-insured plans: Require the companies that self-insured plans hire to manage their employee benefits, called third-party administrators, to cover the cost of these benefits out of revenues not connected with the religiously affiliated employer. Cover the cost of the benefit by having the new reinsurance program established by the health care reform law pay rebates to third-party administrators. Have a separate insurance company provide the benefit to these employees (Feder, 3/16).

The Associated Press/USA Today:  Obama Admin. Outlines Birth Control Policy Options
The Obama administration signaled Friday it's willing to help insurance companies offset the cost of providing free birth control to women working at church-affiliated institutions like hospitals and colleges. ...Friday's proposal lists options for carrying out the president's compromise without forcing insurers to bear the whole cost — or tempting them to engineer backdoor maneuvers to recoup money from religious institutions that object to birth control (Alonso-Zaldivar, 3/16).

Kaiser Health News: HHS Floats New Ideas For Contraception Coverage Compromise
The administration hasn’t formally proposed any of the ideas made public Friday as regulations. Instead, it offered them as possibilities in a notice seeking public comment. The notice encourages other ideas to be offered over the next 90 days. After that, the administration would formally propose a regulation with its preferred method or methods (Rau, 3/16).

Los Angeles Times: Obama Administration Proposes Options On Birth Control Coverage
The proposal drew quick praise from women's rights advocates and other groups that support broader access to contraception, including Planned Parenthood. But it is unclear whether the administration will satisfy major religious groups such as Catholic Charities USA and the Catholic Health Assn. of the United States, representing Catholic hospitals. "We have to spend time reviewing it," said the group's president, Sister Carol Keehan, a leading backer of the new healthcare law who has been working with the administration to protect her members from having to pay for contraceptive coverage (Levey, 3/16).

The Washington Post: Birth Control Rule won't Apply To All Student Plans At Colleges, White House Says
The Obama administration’s controversial birth control health insurance coverage rule will not apply to a type of plan used by about 200,000 college and graduate students, officials said Friday. ... Officials said they have concluded that for technical legal reasons the law’s reach does not extend to “self-insured” student plans, meaning those for which a college or university collects premiums directly from students, then uses the pool to pay for their health care. At least 800,000 students are in a different class of plan: ones that their school purchases from insurance companies on their behalf (Aizenman, 3/16).

The Hill: White House: Colleges Must Cover Birth Control For Students
Religious universities will treat their student plans the same as their employees’ plans, administration officials said Friday. That means they will not have to directly offer contraception in their plans, but students and workers will be able to get birth control from their insurance companies without a copay (Baker, 3/16).

Related, from KHN:
New Rule Cuts Student Health Plans Temporary Breaks (Torres, 3/16) 
FAQ: The Obama Administration's Compromise On Contraception Benefits (Carey, 2/11)


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