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White House proposes new rules on prescription contraceptive coverage

Contraceptive Insurance Coverage

In yet another compromise to allay concerns of religious organizations, the Obama administration on Friday proposed new and revamped rules for coverage of prescription contraceptives.

One year ago, the administration had proposed that full coverage — with no copayments or deductibles — of prescription contraceptives would have to be provided, at no cost, by insurers writing policies for nonprofit affiliates, such as hospitals and universities, of religious organizations.

Now, though, the administration says the organizations would not have to “contract, arrange pay or refer for any contraceptive coverage to which they object on moral grounds.”

Instead, the organizations' insurers would directly issue individual policies — at no cost — to plan participants for prescription contraceptive coverage.

“The eligible organization would have no role in contracting, arranging, paying or referring for this separate contraceptive coverage,” the administration said in the proposed rule.

The administration noted that providing the coverage would be cost neutral for the insurers because “they would be insuring the same set of individuals under both policies and would experience lower costs from improvements in women's health and fewer childbirths.”

In the case of self-funded affiliates of religious organizations, the affiliates' third-party claims administrators would arrange for no-cost individual policies from insurers. The insurers, in turn, would receive a reduction in user fees they will pay, starting next year, to write coverage in public health insurance exchanges, which are authorized under the 2010 health care reform law. The insurers also would pay any fees charged by the TPAs for arranging the coverage.


Religious organizations said they needed more time to study the proposed rules.

“We welcome the opportunity to study the proposed regulations closely. We look forward to issuing a more detailed statement later,” said Cardinal Timothy Dolan, New York-based president of the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops, in a statement.

The proposed rules come after dozens of lawsuits, many filed by archdioceses, challenging the previous rules.

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