Asked to Provide Authentic Protection for People of Faith, HHS Proposes More of the Same

The Truth Comes Out: HHS Tells Insurers They Can Lower Costs By Reducing Childbirths

On Friday, February 1, 2013, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a notice of proposed rulemaking regarding the requirement that all insurance plans cover “all Food and Drug Administration approved contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures, and patient education and counseling for all women with reproductive capacity.” The proposed rule is being issued in response to the many faith-based institutions and religious business owners that continue to object to this mandate on grounds that it forces them to violate their deeply held religious or moral objections to some or all such coverage – especially coverage that includes the morning-after pill (Plan B) or week-after pill (ella).

“Once again, HHS has dashed hopes of a reasonable accommodation for people of faith and conscience,” states Dana Cody, LLDF President and Executive Director. “The proposed rule is simply more of the same.”

The proposed rule continues to apply the full exemption only to churches and their auxiliary institutions.  It appears that this narrow exemption will not apply to nonprofits like the University of Notre Dame, Wheaton College and Catholic Charities.  This type of religious organization (those not meeting the required IRS status, including most non-church non-profits) will be subject to the following:

  • Fully Insured Plans: the insurance company will provide the coverage to the covered employees through a “seamless enrollment process” under the justification that the coverage is actually free because it will reduce childbirth-related costs in the long run.
  • Self-Insured Plans: the third party administrator will contract with another insurance company to provide the coverage, and the insurance company will be compensated by paying less in “Federally-facilitated Exchange user fees.”

In the Administration’s own words: “The Departments believe that issuers generally would find that providing such contraceptive coverage is cost neutral because they would … experience lower costs from improvements in women’s health and fewer childbirths.”

“This ‘saving’ money by ‘reducing’ childbirth-related expenses is one of the most unsettling assertions of the proposed rule,” states Cody. “If contraception reduced healthcare costs, especially as related to pregnancy and childbirth, those costs would already have come down. Instead, we have seen a steady rise in the costs of pregnancy and childbirth, even as contraceptives have become more and more widely available.”

LLDF has argued in numerous amicus briefs that, contrary to the Administration’s assertion, contraceptives pose serious risks to women’s health. The lawsuits asserting personal injury against birth control drug manufacturers provide yet more evidence of the latent danger posed by contraceptives.

Finally, the new “exemption” provides no additional protection for businesses run by people of faith, such as Tyndale House (a Bible publisher), Hobby Lobby and Hercules Industries, nor for non-profits that are not religious in nature, even if their mission is to save the lives of the preborn.  The proposed rule also provides no options for individuals seeking plans that accommodate their values on the exchanges.

The full proposal can be accessed here. Comments on the proposed rule will be accepted until April 5, 2013.