Robert Pear, THE NEW YORK TIMES
The Trump administration has drafted a sweeping revision of the government’s contraception coverage mandate that could deny birth control benefits to hundreds of thousands of women who now receive them at no cost under the Affordable Care Act.
The new rule, which could go into effect as soon as it is published in the Federal Register, greatly expands the number of employers and insurers that could qualify for exemptions from the mandate by claiming a moral or religious objection, including for-profit, publicly traded corporations. A 34,000-word explanation of the intended policy change is blunt about its likely impact on women: “These interim final rules will result in some enrollees in plans of exempt entities not receiving coverage or payments for contraceptive services.”
The architects of the Affordable Care Act intended to broadly expand access to contraception by making it a regular benefit of health insurance, and the Obama administration’s goal was to guarantee birth control for as many women as possible. More than 55 million women have birth control coverage without out-of-pocket costs, according to a study commissioned by the Obama administration and cited in the draft rule.
By spring 2014, two-thirds of women using birth control pills and nearly 75 percent of women using the contraceptive ring were no longer paying out-of-pocket costs. In 2013 alone, the mandate had saved women $1.4 billion on birth control pills, according to the National Women’s Law Center.
But a series of lawsuits filed over the last five years by priests, nuns, charitable organizations, hospitals, advocacy groups and colleges and universities convinced Trump administration officials that a change was needed. The new rule, drafted mainly by political appointees at the White House and the Health and Human Services Department, seeks “to better balance the interests” of women with those of employers and insurers that have conscientious objections to providing or facilitating access to contraceptives.