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Seeking to end a long-running controversy, the Obama administration Friday finalized proposed rules to enable employees of nonprofit religiously affiliated organizations — such as hospitals — and closely held private corporations to obtain coverage for prescription contraceptives, even if their employers object.
Like the earlier rules proposed nearly a year ago by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, under the final HHS regulations, 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 becoming responsible for providing the coverage.
For self-funded organizations, the U.S. 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 same approach also would apply to for-profit, closely held organizations with religious objections to prescription contraceptives. The final rules define such entities as those that are not publicly traded and in which five or fewer individuals own more than 50% of the entity.
The U.S. Supreme Court suggested that approach in its June 2014 decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, in which the high court struck down an earlier HHS requirement that closely held employers — even if they had religious objections — had to arrange for the prescription contraceptive coverage.
“Women across the country should have access to preventive services, including contraception,” HHS Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell said in a statement. “At the same time, we recognize the deeply held views on these issues, and we are committed to securing women's access to important preventive services at no additional cost under the Affordable Care Act, while respecting religious beliefs.”
Religious colleges and charities are not totally exempt from the health care reform law's provision requiring employers to provide cost-free coverage for contraceptives and other preventive health services, a federal appeals court has ruled.