This afternoon, US Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and the Obama administration released their decision not to broaden the exemption for birth control without copay. In August, HHS ruled that a host of women’s preventive health care services – including all FDA approved contraceptive methods – will be covered under all health insurance plans without copay or deductible as part of the Affordable Care Act. Today, feminists and women’s health advocates across the country can celebrate to know that millions of women will gain full coverage in the very near future.

For most companies and organizations, coverage for women’s preventive care will begin August of this year (or whenever your plan renews after that). Under the rules released by HHS today, the only exception for this rule will be “houses of worship” – so, basically, churches, synagogues, mosques, etc. and their employees. They will not at any point be required to offer this coverage. Today’s big win ensures that religiously affiliated institutions, companies and non-profits such as universities, hospitals, etc. will be required to cover contraceptives for their employees, students and members. They will however have one extra year to implement this coverage in their insurance plans.

Attempts from religious organizations – mainly the National Conference of Catholic Bishops – to put pressure on Secretary Sebelius and the Obama administration to broaden the exemption to all religious organizations came in November. Luckily, we now know today that the Affordable Care Act will live up to its promise of ensuring medical insurance coverage for Americans based on sound science and the needs of people and families – regardless of sex, socio-economic status, race, or medical history.

Read more on how women benefit from the Affordable Care Act:

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Meghan Shalvoy

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