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READ: Department of Health and Human Services Releases Notice on Broader Opt-Out for Religious Groups Over Contraceptive Mandate

Today, the Obama administration announced a broader opt-out for religious-affiliated groups that want to skirt the so-called contraceptive mandate. Below is the press release from the Department of Health and Human Services.

The Obama administration today issued proposed rules for public comment regarding contraceptive coverage with no cost sharing under the health care law. The proposed rules provide women with coverage for preventive care that includes contraceptive services with no co-pays, while also respecting the concerns of some religious organizations.

Today's Notice of Proposed Rulemaking reflects public feedback received through the Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking issued in March 2012. In addition, these proposed rules are open for public comment through April 8, 2013.

"Today, the administration is taking the next step in providing women across the nation with coverage of recommended preventive care at no cost, while respecting religious concerns," said Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. "We will continue to work with faith-based organizations, women's organizations, insurers and others to achieve these goals."

The proposed rules lay out how non-profit religious organizations, such as non-profit religious hospitals or institutions of higher education, that object to contraception on religious grounds can receive an accommodation that provides their enrollees separate contraceptive coverage, and with no co-pays, but at no cost to the religious organization.

With respect to insured plans, including student health plans, these religious organizations would provide notice to their insurer. The insurer would then notify enrollees that it is providing them with no-cost contraceptive coverage through separate individual health insurance policies.

With respect to self-insured plans, as well as student health plans, these religious organizations would provide notice to their third party administrator. In turn, the third party administrator would work with an insurer to arrange no-cost contraceptive coverage through separate individual health insurance policies.

Insurers and third party administrators would work to ensure a seamless enrollment process.
The proposed rules lay out how the costs of both the insurer and the third party administrator would be covered, without any charge to either the religious organization or the enrollees.

Additionally, the proposed rules simplify and clarify the definition of "religious employer" for purposes of the exemption from the contraceptive coverage requirement. These employers, primarily houses of worship, can exclude contraception coverage from their health plans for their employees.

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