The Internal Revenue Service, Department of Labor, and U.S. Health and Human Services Department have issued proposed regulations that would provide an additional method for individuals to obtain no-cost contraceptive services if their health plan or insurer does not provide such services due to a religious exemption. Under final regulations issued in 2018, qualifying religious employers and other entities with sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions are exempt from the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive coverage mandate, which generally requires coverage of contraceptive services without cost-sharing. Exempt entities may voluntarily engage in an accommodation process that allows plan participants to receive contraceptive services directly from a TPA or insurer without the employer’s involvement. In an FAQ issued in 2021, the agencies announced they were considering changes to the 2018 regulations “in light of recent litigation”. Here are highlights of the proposal: 

  • Individual Contraceptive Arrangement: Leaving in place the existing religious exemptions and accommodations, the agencies have proposed to add a new “individual contraceptive arrangement” through which individuals enrolled in plans or coverage sponsored or arranged by entities with religious objections could access no-cost contraceptive services without the involvement of their employer, group health plan, plan sponsor, or insurer. A provider or facility that furnishes contraceptive services in accordance with the individual contraceptive arrangement would be reimbursed through an arrangement with an Exchange insurer, which would request an Exchange user fee adjustment to cover the costs. 
  • Moral Exemption Rescinded: The proposed regulations would revoke the 2018 regulations’ moral exemption and accommodation. The agencies explain that “there have not been a large number of entities that have expressed a desire for an exemption based on a non-religious moral objection” and that there is no legal obligation (including under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act) to provide such an exemption. 

Source: Thomson Reuters 

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