The Administration Issues Changes to HHS Mandate for Religious Institutions and Affiliates UPDATED

The press release from the Department of Health and Human Services is out. Revisions to the Mandate at this time apply to non-profit religious institutions and their affiliates.

Briefly, the changes make a provision for employees of these institutions to be offered separate coverage for “preventive services” from health insurance companies utilized by their employers, or via another insurance provider if the organization is self-insured.

Here is the press release from HHS,

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 1, 2013
Contact: HHS Press Office
(202) 690-6343

Administration issues Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on recommended preventive services policy

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.

The proposed rules are available here: http://www.ofr.gov/inspection.aspx

A fact sheet on today’s proposed rules is available here:
http://cciio.cms.gov/resources/factsheets/womens-preven-02012013.html

For more information on women’s preventive services and the Affordable Care Act, visit:http://www.healthcare.gov/news/factsheets/2011/08/womensprevention08012011a.html

Here is a pdf file with all 80 pages of the proposal document. Below is a brief excerpt from pages 10 & 11 of the document,

These proposed rules mark the next step in the process. The proposed rules would make two principal changes to the preventive services coverage rules to provide women contraceptive coverage without cost sharing, while taking into account religious objections to contraceptive services of eligible organizations, including eligible organizations that are religious institutions of higher education, that establish or maintain or arrange health coverage. First, the proposed rules would amend the criteria for the religious employer exemption to ensure that an otherwise exempt employer plan is not disqualified because the employer’s purposes extend beyond the inculcation of religious values or because the employer serves or hires people of different religious faiths. Second, the proposed rules would establish accommodations for health coverage established or maintained by eligible organizations, or arranged by eligible organizations that are religious institutions of higher education, with religious objections to contraceptive coverage. The proposed rules also propose related amendments to other rules, consistent with the proposed accommodations. The Departments intend to finalize all such proposed amendments before the end of the temporary enforcement safe harbor.

The USCCB’s response? A wise one.

Bishops Welcome Opportunity To Study New HHS Regulations

February 1, 2013
WASHINGTON—In response to today’s release of revised regulations for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, provided the following statement on behalf of the USCCB.

“Today, the Administration issued proposed regulations regarding the HHS mandate. We welcome the opportunity to study the proposed regulations closely. We look forward to issuing a more detailed statement later.”

Stay tuned, and there you have it in a nutshell. Religious non-profits are the only organizations that these proposed rules will apply to. HHS is again opening these changes to public comments, so let them hear from you. The document above notes that they received over 200,000 comments the first time around.

Don’t be shy. Meanwhile, the Anchoress is following press coverage of this news.

UPDATES:

Interesting Stuff I Found While Reading the New HHS Mandate Rules.

WaPo: The White House’s contraceptives compromise.

Bill Donohue: New Rules Welcomed.

Catholic Vote: What about businesses?

The Catholic Register/EWTN: Initial conclusions are not promising.

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