White House Releases New Rules Governing Birth Control Mandate
Tthe White House released new health insurance rules Friday for nonprofit organizations and for-profit businesses to comply with the Supreme Court's ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby earlier this summer.
According to Lyle Denniston at SCOTUSBlog, the new rules seem to achieve two purposes: "to keep the mandate under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) within the new limits required by the Court's decision, and "to make sure that women who work for employers who object to the mandate for religious reasons would continue to have access to that coverage."
A fact sheet summarizing the new rules reiterated the health benefits of expanded preventive care, including contraceptive access. "The [Independent Institute of Medicine] recommended covering all FDA-approved contraceptive services for women with child-bearing capacity, as prescribed by a provider, because there are tremendous health benefits for women that come from using contraception."
The Supreme Court's decision in Hobby Lobby held that closely-held corporations, like Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., could claim a religious exemption from the ACA mandate under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and skip paying the cost of some forms of birth control believed to be in violation of the company's religious beliefs. The decision meant such businesses were eligible for the accommodation put in place by the White House for religious institutions, but immediately following Hobby Lobby, the accommodation form itself was challenged by Wheaton College.
Under the new rules, non-profit organizations must indicate their exemption status in writing to the Department of Health and Human Services. The for-profit rules issued by the White House do not set a standard definition of a "closely-held corporation." Instead the document says "the Departments are considering and seek comment on how to define a qualifying closely held for-profit entity."
Media Resources: SCOTUSblog 8/22/14; Feminist Newswire 7/7/14; MSNBC.com 8/22/14; US Supreme Court 7/3/14