The White House issued a final rule Friday, moving forward with a key provision of the Affordable Care Act which requires employers to provide free insurance coverage of contraceptives for women, but opening the door to a flurry of legal action from faith-based employers.
The Obama administration said it received more than 400,000 comments on the issue, and agreed that certain religious employers—primarily houses of worship—may exclude contraceptive coverage from their health plans.
But for the overwhelming majority of Americans who have employer-financed insurance, the ACA's essential health benefits must include sterilization and the full range of contraceptive methods approved by the Food and Drug Administration, including emergency contraceptive pills, such as Plan B.
Under the new health care law, employers with more than 50 employees will be required to offer health insurance or be subject to financial penalties.
“Today’s announcement reinforces our commitment to respect the concerns of houses of worship and other nonprofit religious organizations that object to contraceptive coverage, while helping to ensure that women get the care they need, regardless of where they work," said Kathleen Sebelius, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services.
Meanwhile, this morning's New York Times reports that a number of federal judges, considering multiple lawsuits from Catholic hospitals, schools and universities, deferred decisions until the White House had issued its final regulation. Publication of the rule clears the ways for courts to move forward with decisions.