rain
Sunday December 17th, 2017 4:25PM

Birth control: Trump expands opt-out for workplace insurance

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is allowing more employers to opt out of providing no-cost birth control to women by claiming religious or moral objections, issuing new rules Friday that take another step in rolling back the Obama health care law.

Employers with religious or moral qualms will also be able to cover some birth control methods, and not others. Experts said that could interfere with efforts to promote modern long-acting implantable contraceptives, such as IUDs, which are more expensive.

The new policy was a long-anticipated revision to Affordable Care Act requirements that most companies cover birth control as preventive care for women, at no additional cost. That Obama-era requirement applies to all FDA-approved methods, including the morning-after pill, which some religious conservatives call an abortion drug, though scientists say it has no effect on women who are already pregnant.

As a result of the ACA, most women no longer pay for contraceptives. Several advocacy groups immediately announced plans to try to block the Trump administration rule. "We are preparing to see the government in court," said Brigitte Amiri, a senior attorney for the ACLU.

Catholic bishops called the administration's move a "return to common sense."

Trump's religious and moral exemption is expected to galvanize both his opponents and religious conservatives who back him, but it seems unlikely to have a major impact on America's largely secular workplaces.

"I can't imagine that many employers are going to be willing to certify that they have a moral objection to standard birth control methods," said Dan Mendelson, president of the consulting firm Avalere Health.

That said, Mendelson said he worries the new rule will set a precedent for weakening ACA requirements that basic benefits be covered. "If you look at it as a public health issue, it is a step in the wrong direction, and it weakens the protections of the ACA," he said.

Tens of thousands of women could be affected by Trump's policy, but the vast majority of companies have no qualms about offering birth control benefits through their health plans. Human resource managers recognize that employers get an economic benefit from helping women space out their pregnancies, since female workers are central to most enterprises.

The administration estimated that some 200 employers who have already voiced objections to the Obama-era policy would qualify for the expanded opt-out, and that 120,000 women would be affected.

However, it's unclear how major religion-affiliated employers such as Catholic hospitals and universities will respond. Many Catholic hospitals now rely on an Obama-era workaround under which the government pays for the cost of birth control coverage. That workaround can continue under the new rules.

Since contraception became a covered preventive benefit, the share of women employees paying with their own money for birth control pills has plunged to 3 percent, from 21 percent, according to the latest Kaiser Family Foundation figures.

"It was really important for women to have a choice of the full range of contraceptive methods that were FDA-approved," said Alina Salganicoff, director of women's health policy for the Kaiser foundation. "This will now make it up to the employer whether or not to cover contraception, and whether to cover all methods."

Salganicoff said she's concerned about coverage for implantable devices that are more expensive but also much more effective. "It opens up a lot of opportunities for employers to make choices about the coverage that women have right now," she said.

The Trump administration's revision broadens a religious exemption that previously applied to houses of worship, religion-affiliated nonprofit groups and closely held private companies. Administration officials said the new policy defends religious freedom. In addition to nonprofits, privately held businesses will be able to seek an exemption on religious or moral grounds, while publicly traded companies can seek an exemption due to religious objections.

"No American should be forced to violate his or her own conscience in order to abide by the laws and regulations governing our health care system," Health and Human Services spokeswoman Caitlin Oakley said in a statement.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops welcomed the administration's decision.

"Such an exemption is no innovation, but instead a return to common sense, long-standing federal practice, and peaceful coexistence between church and state," Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, the group's president, said in a joint statement with Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, head of its religious liberty committee.

Officials also said the administration is tightening oversight of how plans sold under the health law cover abortion. With limited exceptions, abortions can only be paid for through a separate premium collected from enrollees.

Doctors' groups that were instrumental in derailing Republican plans to repeal the health law expressed their dismay.

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists said the new policy could reverse progress in lowering the nation's rate of unintended pregnancies.

"HHS leaders under the current administration are focused on turning back the clock on women's health," said the organization's president, Dr. Haywood Brown.

The new rules take effect right away.

___

Crary reported from New York. AP Religion Writer Rachel Zoll contributed to this report.

  • Associated Categories: Homepage, U.S. News, Business News, Local/State News, Politics, Associated Press (AP), AP National News, AP Online National News, Top U.S. News short headlines, Top General short headlines, AP Online Headlines - Washington, AP Health, AP Business, Submitted News, AP Health - Women's health
© Copyright 2017 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Nate takes aim at Mexico, US after dousing Central America
Tropical Storm Nate is gaining force as it roars toward Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula after drenching Central America in rain that's blamed for at least 21 deaths
11:25AM ( 4 minutes ago )
Effort to restrict 'bump stock' draws unlikely supporters
The National Rifle Association joins the Trump administration and top congressional Republicans in a swift and surprising embrace of a restriction on Americans' guns, though a narrow one
11:18AM ( 11 minutes ago )
Nobel Peace Prize awarded to anti-nuclear campaign group
The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded Friday to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, an organization pushing for a global treaty to ban the cataclysmic bombs
10:59AM ( 31 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
US hiring fell 33,000 in September, depressed by hurricanes
US loses 33,000 jobs after hurricanes slam Texas, Florida; first decline in nearly seven years
10:35AM ( 55 minutes ago )
The Latest: Boston boosts security, shooter researched city
Boston Police Commissioner William Evans says authorities will step up security for concerts and sporting events in the city following the shooting in Las Vegas
10:23AM ( 1 hour ago )
Spain: No dialogue until Catalonia drops independence bid
The spokesman for Spain's government declared Friday that "coexistence is broken" in Catalonia, blaming separatist authorities in the wealthy northeastern region for pushing ahead with their independence bid
10:03AM ( 1 hour ago )
AP National News
Hurricane mauled PR's renowned Monkey Island research center
As troops and government workers struggle to restore normal life to storm-torn Puerto Rico, scientists are racing to save more than 1,000 monkeys whose brains may contain clues to some of the most important mysteries of the human mind
9:12AM ( 2 hours ago )
US hiring falls 33,000 after hurricanes slam Texas, Florida
US loses 33,000 jobs after hurricanes slam Texas, Florida; first decline in six years
8:30AM ( 3 hours ago )
Trump, during photo shoot, talks of 'calm before the storm'
President Donald Trump has delivered a foreboding message, telling reporters as he posed for photos with his senior military leaders that this might be "the calm before the storm"
7:25AM ( 4 hours ago )
Top General short headlines
AP-NORC Poll: Adult caregivers overwhelmed and undertrained
AP-NORC Poll: Adult caregivers looking after aging relatives and friends have little training for their stressful roles but still find the experience rewarding
3:27PM ( 20 hours ago )
Cleaning up 'Methadone Mile' and other drug havens
U.S. cities are wrestling with chronically drug-infested areas that have only worsened as cheaper heroin and more potent opioids have flooded in
11:32AM ( 23 hours ago )
Mental health concerns in aftermath of Puerto Rico hurricane
Mental health concerns in Puerto Rico aftermath of Hurricane Maria
3:44AM ( 1 day ago )
AP Health
Global stocks soften on report of US jobs decline
Global stocks turn slightly lower after weak US jobs report distorted by hurricane damage
8:55AM ( 2 hours ago )
The Latest: Spain facilitates firms' exit from Catalonia
Spain's government has approved a decree that would make it easier for companies in Catalonia to move the location of their official registration out of the region
8:44AM ( 2 hours ago )
The Latest: Catalan firms rush to register outside region
Spain's main stock index is down slightly, with Catalan banks leading losses amid uncertainty over the region's independence bid
8:12AM ( 3 hours ago )
AP Business
Study examines how far US women must travel to get abortion
New study shows some striking differences in how far US women travel to get an abortion
4:12PM ( 2 days ago )
ACLU sues to challenge FDA limits on access to abortion pill
The American Civil Liberties Union is filing a lawsuit challenging federal restrictions that limit many women's access to the so-called abortion pill
3:05PM ( 2 days ago )
Baby whose mother chose giving birth over chemo has died
A relative says a tiny preemie whose gravely ill mother had hoped to save her by shunning chemotherapy during pregnancy has died
1:37PM ( 2 weeks ago )
AP Health - Women's health
Nate takes aim at Mexico, US after dousing Central America
Tropical Storm Nate is gaining force as it roars toward Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula after drenching Central America in rain that's blamed for at least 21 deaths
11:25AM ( 5 minutes ago )
Effort to restrict 'bump stock' draws unlikely supporters
The National Rifle Association joins the Trump administration and top congressional Republicans in a swift and surprising embrace of a restriction on Americans' guns, though a narrow one
11:18AM ( 11 minutes ago )
Nobel Peace Prize awarded to anti-nuclear campaign group
The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded Friday to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, an organization pushing for a global treaty to ban the cataclysmic bombs
10:59AM ( 31 minutes ago )
APNewsBreak: Bergdahl expected to plead guilty, avoid trial
Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl is expected to plead guilty this month to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy for leaving his Afghanistan post
10:57AM ( 32 minutes ago )
Renault wants half its cars to be electric or hybrid in 2022
French carmaker Renault says half of its models will be electric or hybrid by 2022 and it's investing heavily in "robo-vehicles" with increasing degrees of autonomy
10:51AM ( 39 minutes ago )