HHS Final Rule on the Contraceptive Mandate Tramples Individual Freedom

The week before we celebrate the birth of our nation, a nation that Abraham Lincoln said was “conceived in liberty,” the Administration proved yet again that it is willing to trample individual liberty in ways never before imagined. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has issued a final rule regarding the treatment of individuals and entities that object to the controversial Contraception Mandate (the rule that requires all insurance plans cover all FDA approved sterilizations and contraceptives including the morning-after and week-after pills).  The mandate has raised serious religious freedom concerns for pro-life non-profits, businesses and individuals who object to the mandated coverage.

The final rule provides no relief for individuals and for-profit employers.

For non-profit, religious organizations the final rule is very similar to the proposed rule published earlier this year.  If an entity that is both nonprofit and religious informs their insurance company that they oppose some or all of the mandated coverage, their insurance company will provide the coverage to their employees anyway indicating that the payments for such coverage were taken from premiums paid by other plan participants.  In the case of self-insured plans (in which there are no other premium payers), the company contracted to administer the plan (third party administrator or TPA) will provide the coverage anyway, but will pay for it through a reduction in certain federal fees (the Federally-facilitated Exchange user-fee).  These arrangements have been widely rejected as insufficient by religious-freedom advocacy groups and employers when they were first proposed earlier this year.

In a small reprieve, HHS has issued guidance so that non-profit religious employers that meet certain requirements will have until January 1, 2014 to comply with the mandate.  Previously these entities were required to comply with the mandate starting on August 1, 2013.

Dana Cody, LLDF President and Executive Director, comments, “Once again, the right to freedom of conscience is subordinated to the idea of ‘free’ access to contraceptives. LLDF will continue to support the fight for defense of life and defense of conscience.”

So far there are sixty-one cases–including over two hundred plaintiffs–that have filed suit against the mandate.  The cases have been filed by hospitals, universities, businesses, schools and individuals who are challenging the government’s insurance coverage mandate because it forces them to violate their deeply held religious or moral objections to some or all of the mandated coverage–especially coverage that includes the morning-after pill (Plan B) or week-after pill (ella).

Read LLDF’s amicus brief arguing for the Mandate to be struck as a violation of the Freedom of Religion. Further information regarding the Mandate’s disrespect for rights of conscience can be found in a report by the U.S. House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee entitled “The Fight to Preserve Religious Liberty: Obamacare’s Assault on a Founding Touchstone of the United States of America”.