Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Government Requires Insurance to Pay for Contraceptives

By Rebecca Faust,

Federal agencies recently issued regulations under the new health care act impinging on the freedom of pro-life citizens to not purchase contraceptives. However, they are still accepting public comment on these regulations from citizens like you.

At the beginning of August, the Health Resources and Services Administration added contraceptives to the list of services which health insurance plans are required to cover without a co-pay. While this does not include surgical abortions, it does include morning after pills which can prevent implantation of an embryo. Furthermore, some churches and individuals have religious beliefs against use of any artificial contraceptives, even those which don't cause abortion.

On August third, the Department of Health and Human Services issued interim final rules authorizing the Health Resources and Services Administration to make a religious exemption to the contraceptives requirement for churches. These rules were declared effective August first, two days before their official publication. It appears that the release of the two sets of regulations was coordinated.

But the limited religious exemption allowed by the Department of Health and Human Services provides inadequate protection.

The exemption only applies to certain non-profits. It does not protect pro-life business owners purchasing health care for their employees. It does not provide an option for companies who would prefer not to spend their money in that way.

In addition to qualifying as a non-profit under the Internal Revenue Code, organizations would need to meet three criteria to qualify for the exemption:

(1) The inculcation of religious values is the purpose of the organization.

(2) The organization primarily employs persons who share the religious tenets of the organization.

(3) The organization serves primarily persons who share the religious tenets of the organization.

This still leaves Christian charities endeavoring to serve the public unprotected. Ironically, even a pro-life pregnancy resource center would not meet the criteria for a religious exemption if it wanted to provide health insurance for employees.

Furthermore, there is no exemption for individual health insurance plans. This could leave pro-life citizens who choose to purchase health insurance for themselves in the tenuous position of paying into a program which subsidizes services contrary to their moral beliefs.

While this may happen already through some health care plans, these new regulations virtually insure the absence of options for those wishing to sell or purchase insurance plans grounded in pro-life ethics.

Finally, this situation will be compounded if and when the individual mandate takes effect. The price for refusing to subsidize contraceptives now may be remaining uninsured. The price in the future may be greater.

For those of you who already have insurance, it should be noted that your plan may be grandfathered so that it won't be required to include free contraceptives.

You can submit comments to the Department of Health and Human Services regarding the religious exemption. Comments on the department's interim final rules must be submitted by the end of the month. If you would like them to broaden the religious exemption to better protect pro-life citizens, now is the time to say so. You can submit your comment online: www.regulations.gov. The identifier for the interim final rules is: CMS-9992-IFC2.

You can also submit comments to the Health Resources and Services Administration regarding whether insurance companies should be required to cover contraceptives at all. The Resources and Services Administration is accepting comments on an ongoing basis. Email them your comments at: womensguidelines@hrsa.gov.

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