Interesting Stuff I Found While Reading the New HHS Mandate Rules

Evening folks. Sorry I haven’t posted anything until now, but I’ve been reading the 80 pages of proposed rules regarding the HHS Mandate. I didn’t really want to, because it’s not exactly Joe Six-Packs’ idea of a “good time.” But seeings how I’ve seen all kinds of reactions to the new proposals, some positive, and some negative, I figured I’d do what the USCCB recommended and read the whole thing.

Better legal minds than mine (I’m Joe Six-Pack, sea lawyer, esq.) have weighed in on the contents of the document, but as the USSCB hasn’t said anything yet, much of what I’ve seen so far (except for this from CNS) sounds more like lobbying (either “for” or “against”).

I learned a few things by reading the whole thing. For instance, I learned that the actual rule proposed to the Code of Federal Regulations is 8 and a half pages long, not 80. Sure, the document released on Friday was 80 pages long, but a big chunk of that was language asking for our comments, along with multiple options of how to tackle aspects of implementation, etc. And would you believe “gender equality” is cited as a reason for the mandate? I wouldn’t kid you, now.

So I went through the thing and have pulled out excerpts that I think you might find interesting. In some cases, I even say a few words.

Pages 10-11, I shared this in the post yesterday when the new proposal was handed down. Contrary to what some have said elsewhere, the new changes aren’t as narrow as they used to be.

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.

Pages 16-17 Again, an expansion to include activities that aren’t just for proselytizing and preaching to / taking care of your own.

The Departments propose two key changes to the preventive services coverage rules codified in 26 CFR 54.9815-2713T, 29 CFR 2590.715-2713, and 45 CFR 147.130 to meet these goals. 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.

Pg.22 Yep. Healthcare providers included too. Universities and colleges, charities. The whole enchilada of the churches engaging “the world.”

This proposed definition of eligible organization is intended to allow health coverage established or maintained or arranged by nonprofit religious organizations, including nonprofit religious institutional health care providers, educational institutions, and charities, with religious objections to contraceptive coverage to qualify for an accommodation. For this purpose, an organization that is organized and operated as a nonprofit entity is not limited to any particular form of entity under state law, but may include organizations such as trusts and unincorporated associations, as well as nonprofit, not-for-profit, non-stock, public benefit, and similar types of corporations. However, for this purpose an organization is not considered to be organized and operated as a nonprofit entity if its assets or income accrue to the benefit of private individuals or shareholders.

Pg. 23 Not applicable to for-profit secular employers, but you knew that yesterday.

The Departments do not propose that the definition of eligible organization extend to for-profit secular employers. Religious accommodations in related areas of federal law, such as the exemption for religious organizations under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, are available to nonprofit religious organizations but not to for-profit secular organizations. Accordingly, the Departments believe it would be appropriate to define eligible organization to include nonprofit religious organizations, but not to include for-profit secular organizations.

Pg 25. Enrollment would be “automatic.” This could be troublesome. Why not make it voluntary and optional for the beneficiary? Opt in vs. automatic? Sounds like a “comment” idea.

The issuer would automatically enroll plan participants and beneficiaries in a separate individual health insurance policy that covers recommended contraceptive services. The Departments envision that the issuer would ensure that contraceptive coverage for plan participants and beneficiaries is effective at the beginning of the plan year of their group health plan, to the extent possible, to prevent a delay or gap in contraceptive coverage. The eligible organization would have no role in contracting, arranging, paying, or referring for this separate contraceptive coverage. Such coverage would be offered at no charge to plan participants and beneficiaries, that is, the issuer would provide benefits for such contraceptive services without the imposition of any cost sharing requirement (such as a copayment, coinsurance, or a deductible), premium, fee, or other charge, consistent with section 2713 of the PHS Act. The requirements of section 2713 of the PHS Act, its implementing regulations, and other applicable federal and state law (as well as their enforcement mechanisms) would continue to apply with 01/30/13 26 respect to such coverage. For example, an issuer providing such coverage could use reasonable medical management techniques consistent with 45 CFR 147.130(a)(4).

Pg 32. Your comments wanted. Lots of language added to paragraphs requesting input from citizens. Example re self-insured plans.

The Departments also seek comment on whether there are efficient ways to limit the benefits provided under the separate individual health insurance policies for contraceptive coverage to match the contraceptive benefits identified in the self-certification or whether the separate individual health insurances policies for contraceptive coverage should simply cover the full set of recommended contraceptive services. One option would be to require coordination of benefits such that the contraceptive coverage is secondary to the coverage provided by the group health plan established or maintained by the eligible organization (and any group health insurance coverage provided in connection with the plan). The Departments solicit comment on this issue.

Pg 32-33 Cost scheme for self-insured plans

To fund contraceptive coverage for participants and beneficiaries in self-insured plans established or maintained by eligible organizations at no cost to plan participants or beneficiaries, HHS proposes that the existing proposed FFE user fee calculation, set forth in the December 7, 2012 proposed rule titled “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act; HHS Notice of Benefit and Payment Parameters for 2014″ (77 FR 73213), take into account that an issuer that offers a qualified health plan (QHP) through an FFE (or an affiliated issuer in a state without an FFE) provides such contraceptive coverage by reducing the amount of the user fee. Consistent with Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Circular No. A25-R, the proposed revised FFE user fee calculation (which would result in an adjustment of the FFE user 1/30/13 33 fee) would facilitate the proposed accommodation of self-insured plans established or maintained by eligible organizations by ensuring that plan participants and beneficiaries have separate individual health insurance policies for contraceptive coverage at no additional cost such that eligible organizations are not required to administer or fund such coverage.

Pg 33. A reason for the HHS Mandate that might surprise you. To promote gender equality? Uh-huh.

Moreover, as described in the 2012 final rules and the ANPRM, there are significant benefits associated with contraceptive coverage without cost sharing. Such contraceptive coverage significantly furthers the governmental interests in promoting public health and in promoting gender equality.

Pg. 36 Maybe HHS should hire Wal-Mart and Target? They seem to have the market figured just fine. And for a whole lot less than “major medical” coverage.

Given the potentially narrow markets available to the issuers of the contraceptive coverage, the per capita cost of administering this type of coverage may be higher than that for major medical coverage or other excepted benefits. On the other hand, given that a third party administrator would be connecting the plan participants and beneficiaries with the issuer, and there would therefore be reduced marketing costs, the administrative costs could be lessened. HHS seeks comment on the appropriate magnitude of these administrative costs generally, as well as ways of minimizing the administrative costs.

Pg 37-40. Reasonable margins, please. Uncle Sam is picking up the tab. Looks like “at no cost” will cost taxpayers. But you knew that, right?

HHS notes that the estimate of the cost of the contraceptive coverage could include a reasonable margin. HHS seeks comment on the magnitude of a reasonable margin, and notes that the proposed HHS Notice of Benefit and Payment Parameters for 2014 proposes a presumed margin of 3 percent within allowable administrative costs for the risk corridors program.

The proposed inclusion of reasonable administrative costs and margin in the estimate of the cost of the contraceptive coverage is intended to ensure that issuers receive reasonable compensation for providing the contraceptive coverage, as they would expect to receive in their other commercial businesses.

Pg. 42 Student health plans at non-profit religious colleges/universities.

The proposed rules would provide for an accommodation for student health insurance coverage arranged by a nonprofit religious institution of higher education with religious objections to contraceptive coverage comparable to the proposed accommodation for group health insurance coverage provided in connection with a group health plan established or maintained by a nonprofit religious organization with religious objections to contraceptive coverage.

Pg. 44-45 Religious Designations and rights to “free expression,” I reckon cannot be impeded. That First Amendment thing, you know.

Whether an employer or organization (including an institution of higher education) is designated as “religious” for these purposes is not intended as a judgment about the mission, sincerity, or commitment of the employer or organization (including an institution of higher education), or intended to differentiate among the religious merits, commitment, mission, or public or private standing of religious entities. The use of such designation is limited solely to defining the class of employers or organizations (including institutions of higher education) that would qualify for the religious employer exemption and accommodations under these proposed rules. The definition of religious employer or eligible organization in these proposed rules is not being 1/30/13 45 proposed to apply with respect to, or relied upon for the interpretation of, any other provision of the PHS Act, ERISA, the Code, or any other provision of federal law, nor is it intended to set a precedent for any other purpose. For example, nothing in these proposed rules should be construed as affecting the interpretation of federal or state civil rights statutes, such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 or Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.

Furthermore, nothing in these proposed rules would preclude employers or others from expressing their opposition, if any, to the use of contraceptives; require anyone to use contraceptives; or require health care providers to prescribe contraceptives if doing so is against their religious beliefs.

Skipping ahead now, because a bunch of requests for multiple approaches, all seeking commentary, etc. Getting close to the end now.

Pg 67-68 What’s an employer to tell it’s employees? Model language during enrollment for health care benefits,

The following model language, or substantially similar language, may be used to satisfy the notice requirement of this paragraph:

“The organization that establishes and maintains, or arranges, your health coverage has certified that your group health plan qualifies for an accommodation with respect to the federal requirement to cover all Food and Drug Administration-approved contraceptive services for women, as prescribed by a health care provider, without cost sharing. This means that your health coverage will not cover the following contraceptive services: [contraceptive services specified in self-certification]. Instead, these contraceptive services will be covered through a separate individual health insurance policy, which is not administered or funded by, or connected in any way to, your health coverage. You and any covered dependents will be enrolled in this separate individual health insurance policy at no additional cost to you. If you have any questions about this notice, contact [contact information for health insurance issuer].”

Pg 69-77 The way the new proposal would read in the Code of Federal Regulations (8 1/2 pages). Here’s an excerpt,

§ 147.131 Exemption and accommodations in connection with coverage of preventive health services.

(a) Religious employers. In issuing guidelines under §147.130(a)(1)(iv), the Health Resources and Services Administration may establish an exemption from such guidelines with respect to a group health plan established or maintained by a religious employer (and health insurance coverage provided in connection with a group health plan established or maintained by a religious employer) with respect to any requirement to cover contraceptive services under such guidelines. For purposes of this paragraph (a), a “religious employer” is an organization that is organized and operates as a nonprofit entity and is referred to in section 6033(a)(3)(A)(i) or (a)(3)(A)(iii) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended.

(b) Eligible organizations. An eligible organization is an organization that satisfies all of the following requirements:

(1) The organization opposes providing coverage for some or all of any contraceptive services required to be covered under §147.130(a)(1)(iv) on account of religious objections.
(2) The organization is organized and operates as a nonprofit entity.
(3) The organization holds itself out as a religious organization.
(4) The organization maintains in its records a self-certification, made in the manner and form specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, for each plan year to which the accommodation is to apply, executed by a person authorized to make the certification on behalf of the organization, indicating that the organization satisfies the criteria in paragraphs (b)(1) through (3) of this section, and, specifying those contraceptive services for which the organization will not establish, maintain, administer, or fund coverage, and makes such certification available for examination upon request.

There you have it folks, the Cliffs Notes version of the new proposal. Now we wait while the USCCB analyzes the language.

  • Laura

    “Gender Equality?” uh-oh… soon we’ll all be paying for vasectomies and condoms too…

    • http://tonylayne.blogspot.com Anthony S. Layne

      And “gender reassignment” ….

    • Alan

      Vasectomies are covered by most insurance plans already – so yeah, gender equality is in play here

      • Jerry

        Female hormonal contraceptives and abortafacients are covered by most insurance plans already – so yeah, “gender equality” is a smoke screen.

  • Elizabeth

    “Gender equality” – because the only way that the two genders can be equal is if you treat the healthy condition of one as a sickness, and get rid of it.

    • Ted Seeber

      More like the healthy condition of both. This is Eugenics.

  • Bill S

    “And would you believe “gender equality” is cited as a reason for the mandate?”

    Given that an unwanted pregnancy would put a woman at a disadvantage in competing with men in the workplace then it would be a gender equality issue.

    • http://coalitionforclarity.blogspot.com/ Robert King

      Because, of course, the only equality that matters is the ability to compete in the workplace.

    • Ted Seeber

      Isn’t that illegal under the FMLA already?

  • http://contemplativehomeschool.wordpress.com Connie Rossini

    My questions:

    First, why should everyone automatically be enrolled in a separate plan that covers contraceptives, sterilizations, and early abortions, even if those things are against their religious beliefs? This look like government promoting the Culture of Death and trying to extend it to religious people, not just accommodating those who want to be part of it. If I don’t want the coverage, I should have the option not to have it.

    Second, does this automatic coverage only apply to the educational institutions and hospitals, etc. found to be exempt in this new version of the mandate, or does it include everyone found exempt? Previously, since my husband works for the diocese, we would have had no coverage for these “services.” Now will we automatically be enrolled in this vicious plan? If so, that part is worse than the last version.

    Third, this is only covering people’s religious beliefs. What if someone has a conscientious objection not based on religion? It could be based on natural law, the facts about the damaging effects of synthetic hormones, or general concerns about freedom.

    I’m anxiously awaiting the Church’s response to the new document.

  • Bill

    So, the contraceptive coverage is “not connected” to the insurance plan? If you are part of the organization’s insurance plan, you are automatically enrolled in the contraceptive plan. This is an odd way to be not connected.

  • Kate

    It actually sounds like they are trying to understand the ‘cooperation with material evil’ issue and honestly look for a real workaround. I don’t know whether it will be acceptable to the Bishops…but my gut feeling is that the Bishops really do want a workable compromise and will meet any hope of good faith with good faith themselves. And probably quite a few pages of ‘comments’.

  • Bill S

    The Bishops will just try to take it one step further now and insist that the exemption apply to all Catholic employers. That will, of course, be rejected, and the amendment will go final.

  • Fr . Tom Bartolomeo

    This should not be some ‘fine parsing’ of a moral issue for Catholics, clergy and laity, and others as
    I argue in article, “The Greater Peril: The Loss of Religious Liberty or the Loss of Religion”, http://www.lifeissues.net/writers/bart/bart_27greaterperil.html


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