The Obama Administration has issued two regulations addressing coverage of contraceptive services under QHPs in response to recent court rulings (in particular the Supreme Court ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc.) addressing certain religious objections to such coverage. First, an interim final rule provides an additional pathway for nonprofit organizations eligible for a religious accommodation to provide notice of their religious objection to covering contraceptive services. These eligible organizations are permitted to notify the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in writing of their religious objection to providing contraception coverage. HHS and the Department of Labor will in turn notify insurers and third party administrators so the organization’s enrollees will receive separate coverage for contraceptive services, with no additional cost to the enrollee or the employer. The interim final rule is effective August 27, 2014; comments will be accepted until October 27, 2014.
The Administration also published a related proposed rule that would extend to certain “closely-held” for-profit entities (such as Hobby Lobby) the same accommodation that is available to non-profit religious organizations with religious objections to coverage of contraceptive services. Under the proposed rule, these companies would not be required to contract, arrange, pay or refer for contraceptive coverage to which they object on religious grounds. Payments for contraceptive services provided to participants and beneficiaries in the eligible organization’s plan would be provided separately by an issuer or arranged separately by a third party administrator, consistent with existing regulations for certain religious employers. Comments on the proposed rule are due by October 21, 2014.