Trump offers broad leeway to employers to drop birth control coverage

The Trump administration is expanding the religious exemption for employers that don't want to provide insurance coverage for certain birth control methods because they have moral objections under rules announced Friday. 

The Affordable Care Act required all employers to cover birth control for their workers without any co-payment, but the provision has been embroiled in lawsuits ever since. 

The new rules allow any employer or insurer to stop covering contraceptive services if they have religious beliefs or moral convictions against covering birth control. It would be up to states to determine how companies should make these decisions. 

Senior Health and Human Services officials said only a small fraction of women who get birth control without cost from their employers will be affected, as some large companies, including Pepsi and Exxon, had pre-ACA plans that will continue. Some church groups were already exempt from the law and not providing this coverage. The officials requested anonymity during a Friday call with reporters.

The National Women's Law Center immediately vowed to sue the Trump administration to block the rules, which CEO Fatima Goss Graves said showed "callous disregard for women's rights, health and automony." 

The Supreme Court decided in 2014 that the Affordable Care Act couldn't require employers to offer insurance coverage for certain birth control methods they equate with abortion. The decision applied only to private corporations such as the family-owned companies — including retailer Hobby Lobby — that challenged the law.  Women working for those companies would be able to get morning-after pills and IUDs from other sources, such as the government or private insurers.

Critics of the rule, including American Public Health Association executive director and physician Georges Benjamin, said it is a way for the Department of Health and Human Services to achieve what it hadn't been able to do in Congress despite repeated attempts to replace and replace the ACA. 

It's a "roundabout" way for the Trump administration to eliminate the ACA's birth control coverage mandate, said American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology President Haywood Brown, an OB/GYN.

The group also said contraception reduces maternal mortality and improves the health and economic stability of families and communities.  

ACA opponents sought to get rid of the so-called "essential health benefits" that the law requires all insurance plans to cover, which includes birth control. 

Brown joined opponents of the Trump administration in a call about the expected rule that was set up by Planned Parenthood late Thursday. 

"Any move to decrease access (to contraception) will have damaging effects on public health," says ACOG CEO and OB/GYN Hal Lawrence, citing premature births which are more common when babies aren't planned.

© 2017 USATODAY.COM


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