HHS Regulation to Require Insurers to Offer Free Contraceptives

Today, the Health Resources and Services Administration, a division of the Department of Health and Human Services, issued controversial guidelines that declare certain health services for women to be “preventive services.” With this designation new health insurance plans (those plans not in existence when Obamacare was passed on March 23, 2010) issued one year from today will have to provide these services for free to their beneficiaries.

HRSA’s guidelines are controversial because they include “[a]ll Food and Drug Administration approved contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures, and patient education and counseling for all women with reproductive capacity.” This includes so called “emergency ” or “Plan B” contraceptives which are used after fertilization.

In a regulation, also released today, HHS has created an exception for religious employers and defines “religious employers” as:

(1) has the inculcation of religious values as its purpose;
(2) primarily employs persons who share its religious tenets;
(3) primarily serves persons who share its religious tenets; and
(4) is a non-profit organization under Internal Revenue Code section 6033(a)(1) and section 6033(a)(3)(A)(i) or (iii). 45 C.F.R. §147.130(a)(1)(iv)(B).

Groups such as Americans United for Life are complaining that the exception so narrow that they will have to offer certain services to their employees which they oppose. AUL staff counsel, Anna Fanzonello, told Politico Pro, “[I]t's still a very narrow conscience protection, which leaves many pro-life individuals and organizations subject to paying for abortion-inducing drugs[.]”

American’s for Limited Government does not take positions on social issues. We are, however, against Obamacare and federal control of the insurance industry.

Strangely, Obamacare was written in a way that exempts the list of Women’s Preventive Services from the normal comment and review processes. So, while HHS is accepting comments, the Administrative Procedures Act does not require them to respond to such comments.

Citizens who believe the religious exemption regulation to be too narrow, however, will have 60 days to comment, beginning Wednesday, August 3rd. We will post the regulation and a link to an online form to submit your comment later this week.

Update: We've posted the regulation along with a link to submit your comment.