Trump administration rolling back mandate to cover birth control

A protester is detained and escorted out by U.S. Capitol Police during the Senate Finance Committee hearing on the last-ditch GOP push to overhaul the nation's health care system

The Trump administration today rolled back regulations set by an Obama-era mandate requiring employers to include birth control coverage in their health insurance plans.

DOJ legal briefs also argued that the expansive mandate was necessary to promote the equality of women in the business arena-which is not the goal of health insurance. "They're taking contraception coverage away from women without justification". "Not only does it help women plan their families - it's also used by thousands of women to treat serious medical conditions, like endometriosis and ovarian cysts". The organization's senior staff attorney Brigitte Amiri called the administration's rules "blatantly unconstitutional".

The mandate also, the administration says, imposes a "substantial burden" on the free exercise of religion by certain employers who object to it.

The report added: "And with the fifth enrollment season set to begin November 1, advocates say the Health and Human Services Department has done more to suppress the number of people signing up than to boost it".

Rienzi said the new rule, while an interim one still susceptible to being challenged, was "moderate and balanced".

These employers were asked to file paperwork with the Obama administration, and then their health insurer would step in to pay for their employees' contraception. Employers could cite any religious or moral reason. Birth control is generally quite cheap; the Pill's average cost is between $20 and $50 a month without insurance coverage. The new rule expands that.

Since contraception became a covered preventive benefit, the share of women employees paying with their own money for birth control pills has plunged to 3 percent, from 21 percent, according to the latest Kaiser Family Foundation figures. "This will now make it up to the employer whether or not to cover contraception, and whether to cover all methods".

In 2014, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby, deciding that closely-held, for-profit companies could stop providing coverage. Administration officials said the new policy defends religious freedom.

The church leaders also said the decision to provide the religious and moral exemption to the HHS mandate recognizes that faith-based and mission-driven organizations and those who run them "have deeply held religious and moral beliefs that the law must respect". "This is an unacceptable attack on basic health care that the vast majority of women rely on", Richards said in a statement.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) released a statement on Friday hailing the decision as "good news for all Americans".

"As it notes, the U.S. Supreme Court made clear in its recent 7-2 decision in Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia v. Comer, singling out religious Americans for unequal treatment by the government "is odious to our Constitution..., and can not stand.' As CEO of the largest religious freedom legal organization in the world, I commend the president for taking another step to honor his campaign promise to make religious liberty his 'first priority" by directing the Department of Justice to issue this guidance, which simply directs the federal government to adhere to its legal and constitutional obligation to respect existing religious freedom protections".

When asked what was different between Thursday and today, the official said, "nothing, as a matter of law". Insurance companies that cover abortion care are required to collect and keep separate funds for the provision of that care.

Doctors' groups that were instrumental in derailing Republican plans to repeal the health law expressed their dismay.

"Since the Affordable Care Act increased access to contraceptives, our nation has achieved a 30 year low in its unintended pregnancy rate, including among teens".

"Any move to decrease access to these vital services would have damaging effects on public health and women's health", said Haywood Brown, director of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

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