New Rules on Religious and Moral Exemptions for Contraceptive Coverage

October 18, 2017

In May 2017, the Trump administration issued an Executive Order directing the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to work on the regulations on mandated preventive care, specifically concerning contraceptive coverage and the religious and moral objections of employer groups.

On Friday, October 6, 2017, the HHS, IRS, and DOL jointly issued two new interim final rules which were effective on the date of publication:

Religious Exemptions and Accommodations for Coverage of Certain Preventive Services

Moral Exemptions and Accommodations for Coverage of Certain Preventive Services

Prior to these interim final rules, in response to Hobby Lobby, Little Sisters of the Poor, and other legal decisions, interim rules had already been issued and revised to allow certain limited religious employers to qualify for an exemption from the mandated contraceptive coverage. The prior versions required an objecting employer to either submit a form or send a notice to HHS stating their objection. Once the form or notice was received, the employer’s plan would no longer include contraceptive coverages and an “accommodation process” would be triggered. The accommodation process provided that if any individual covered under the employer’s plan requested the omitted contraceptive coverage, then the insurer would be required to provide the benefit outside of the plan.

Under the two new interim final rules, the exemption is expanded to cover more types of employers, allow for a non-religious moral objection and make the accommodation process optional. They also add exemptions for individuals, schools that provide student coverage, and insurance issuers.

The Departments estimate that this expansion will not impact a significant number of women with contraceptive costs, but will reduce HHS’s expenses for managing the accommodation process as well as ongoing litigation and negotiation.

If you have any questions, please contact your Keller account team.