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Obama administration floats new prescription contraceptive rules


The Obama administration sought Friday to end a long-running controversy by proposing new ways to enable employees of nonprofit religiously affiliated organizations — such as hospitals — and private closely held corporations to obtain coverage for prescription contraceptives, even if their employers object.

Under proposed U.S. Department of Health and Human Services regulations, nonprofit religiously affiliated organizations would provide written notification to HHS of their objections to the coverage.

For nonprofits with an insured plan, HHS then would notify the insurer, with the insurer responsible being responsible for providing the coverage.

For self-funded organizations, the Department of Labor would notify the organization's third-party health plan administrator, with the TPA then arranging the coverage.

The insurers or TPAs would pay for the coverage.

The Friday proposal would replace an existing rule — the target of numerous lawsuits — under which the religiously affiliated organizations have to directly contact their insurer or TPA to inform them of their objections to the coverage, with the insurers or TPAs then providing the coverage.

In addition, the proposed rules would extend this approach to for-profit, closely held organizations with religious objections to prescription contraceptive coverage.

The U.S. Supreme Court suggested that approach in its June decision striking down the requirement that the employers had to arrange for the prescription contraceptive coverage.

“Today's announcement reinforces our commitment to providing women with access to coverage for contraception, while respecting religious considerations raised by nonprofit organizations and closely held for-profit companies,” HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell said in a statement.

It wasn't immediately clear, though, if the latest proposal would defuse the controversy.

The Catholic Health Association in Washington declined comment on the proposal.