KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Religious Employers Are Offered Fix On Birth Control Coverage

News outlets report that the regulations, expected to be published later today, will allow religious nonprofits -- and perhaps later religious business owners -- to notify the government that they object to providing contraception coverage. Federal officials would then arrange for the workers' insurance.

The Associated Press: Obama Offers New Accommodations On Birth Control
The Obama administration will offer a new accommodation to religious nonprofits that object to covering birth control for their employees. The measure allows those groups to notify the government, rather than their insurance company, that birth control violates their religious beliefs (Lederman, 8/22).

The Wall Street Journal: Obama Administration To Offer Contraception Compromise For Religious Employers
The Obama administration is set to outline a new compromise Friday designed to shield religious business owners and Christian universities and charities from the health law's contraception-coverage requirements while maintaining the coverage for women, according to people familiar with the new rules. The new rules, expected later in the day, will lay out a multistep process in which employers that are morally opposed to including birth control in workers' insurance would state their objections in writing, and the federal government would take over responsibility for the coverage from there (Radnofsky, 8/22).

Bloomberg: Obama Provides Birth-Control Coverage Plan For Nonprofits
Women who work for religious nonprofits will have access to birth control at no cost under a procedure the Obama administration said would also relieve their employers of any moral objections to the coverage. The nonprofits now only have to notify the U.S. government of their objections in writing, the administration said in a regulatory filing to be published today. Coverage will be arranged separately by the government through health-benefit managers (Wayne, 8/22).

The Washington Post: Administration Offers New Tweak To Birth Control Rule
The administration is trying to deal with the fallout from the Supreme Court's bitterly debated 5-4 decision in June that owners of closely-held businesses don't have to offer contraception coverage if it conflicts with their religious beliefs. The forthcoming federal guidelines will address a set of ongoing legal challenges to the contraceptive requirement raised by dozens of religious nonprofit groups, such as hospitals and charities, that could again put the contraception mandate before the Supreme Court. The religious nonprofits are challenging the administration's already existing opt-out, in which the groups can ask a third party to provide the contraception coverage to their employees (Millman, 8/22).

Politico: New Contraceptive Coverage Plan To Be Offered For Religious Nonprofits
The new plan, which sources familiar with the policy said essentially adds HHS to the notification process for any group that objects to the coverage requirement, addresses a very visible component of Obamacare. The legal challenges brought by scores of organizations across the country have put contraceptive coverage at risk but not threatened the health care law itself (Norman, 8/22).

CNBC: Government To Deliver Obamacare Contraception Rules Compromise
Under both rules, employees would have their contraception costs covered by a third-party, which would either be directly reimbursed by the federal government, or whose costs would assumed to be covered by savings realized by minimizing the number of pregnancies covered by the insurance plan. One rule would allow religious non-profit employers to avoid the requirement that they formally fill out a form self-certifying they object to covering contraception for their workers, a form that then had to be turned over to their health-insurance issuer or third-party plan administrator (Mangan, 8/22).

Catholic News Agency: Obama Administration Announces New HHS Mandate Rules
Previously, religious groups were instructed to sign a form voicing their objection to the coverage, which would authorize their insurer or a third-party administrator to pay for the products. Many religious groups had objected to this arrangement, saying that it still required them to violate their religious beliefs by authorizing an outside organization to pay for the products they found to be immoral. The new rule announced Friday allows these non-profit groups to notify the Department of Health and Human Services of their objections. The federal government will then contact insurers and third party administrators to provide the coverage (8/22).

Vox: The White House Has A Plan To Get Birth Control To Hobby Lobby Workers
The Obama administration wants to extend the accommodation for religious non-profits — where the health insurance plan, rather than the employer, foots the bill for birth control — to objecting for-profit organizations. At a company like Hobby Lobby, for example, this would mean that the owners would notify the government of their objection to contraceptives. The Obama administration would then pass that information along to Hobby Lobby's health insurance plan, which would be responsible for paying for the birth control coverage. This will be a proposed rule that the Obama administration is seeking comment on, meaning it's not fully set in stone – and could change as what will likely be dozens, if not hundreds, of interested parties submit feedback (Kliff, 8/22).

Fox News: Administration Offers New Accommodations On Birth Control After ObamaCare Rulings
The changes had been expected, particularly after the Supreme Court ruled in June that the government can't force companies like Hobby Lobby Inc. to pay for birth control, as originally required under the Affordable Care Act. Days later, the high court also sided with religious nonprofits such as Wheaton College, an evangelical school, which argued that an existing accommodation required them to sign a form that violated their beliefs (8/22).

The New York Times: Administration Proposes New Health Rules Addressing Religious Objections
For President Obama’s administration, the court rulings presented a dilemma: how to stand by their insistence that all women should have easy access to contraceptive services at no cost, while also recognizing the religious objections of organizations and companies as determined by the court. For the last several months, officials have been seeking a middle ground that would meet the court’s new standards while not abandoning the president’s principles (Shear, 8/22).

The Hill: Feds To Unveil New Birth Control Mandate
Opponents of the provision immediately blasted the proposal as an accounting gimmick that fails to respect court’s finding. "It is simply another clerical layer to an already existing accounting gimmick that does nothing to protect religious freedom because the employer still remains the legal gateway by which these drugs and services will be provided to their employees," said Arina Grossu, director for the Center for Human Dignity at the conservative Family Research Council. The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which has represented employers in legal challenges to the provision, described the action as evidence that opponents of the provision were winning the fight (Goad, 8/22).

MSNBC: White House Issues New Fix For Contraceptive Coverage
The new policies are intended to fill gaps left by two Supreme Court moves: The landmark Hobby Lobby decision saying contraceptive coverage violated the religious liberty of a for-profit corporation, and a preliminary order in Wheaton College v. Burwell. With today’s regulations, employees of for-profit corporations like Hobby Lobby will be able to access an "accommodation" where the insurer directly provides the cost-free coverage with no financial involvement by the employer. That accommodation was originally limited to religiously-affiliated nonprofits like Little Sisters of the Poor; houses of worship are fully exempt (Carmon, 8/22).

Huffington Post: White House Rolls Out New Birth Control Accommodation For Nonprofits
The Obama administration announced on Friday a new accommodation for religious nonprofits that object to covering the full range of contraceptives in their employee health care plans. The new accommodation will allow religious nonprofits, such as Catholic schools and hospitals, to opt out of covering birth control by notifying the Department of Health and Human Services of their objections. HHS and the Department of Labor will then arrange for a third-party insurer to pay for and administer the coverage for the nonprofits' employees so that women still receive the contraceptive coverage guaranteed to them by the Affordable Care Act (Basssett, 8/22).

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