A close up of a packet of birth control pills

New Rules Expand Exemptions Based on Religious and Moral Objections

Effective as of October 6, 2017, two companion interim final rules issued by the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services, Treasury, and Labor expand exemptions related to the Affordable Care Act requirement that non-grandfathered group health plans provide coverage without cost-sharing for contraceptive services (referred to as the “contraceptive mandate”). Previously, the contraceptive mandate was subject to exemptions for religious employers and accommodations for certain other non-profit religious organizations and closely held for-profit entities with sincerely held religious beliefs against certain contraceptives.

Expanded Exemptions

The new rules exempt entities that object to establishing, maintaining, providing, offering, or arranging (as applicable) coverage, payments, or a plan that provides coverage or payments for some or all contraceptive services based on their sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions. For this purpose, the term “contraceptive services” includes contraceptive or sterilization items, procedures, or services, or related patient education or counseling.

  • Religious Exemption. This exemption applies to non-governmental plan sponsors—including non-profit organizations and for-profit entities (whether or not they are closely held or publicly traded)—that object based on sincerely held religious beliefs.
  • Moral Exemption. This exemption includes the plans of plan sponsors that are non-profit entities, as well as for-profit entities that have no publicly traded ownership interests (as defined under the law).

Disclosure Requirements

Exempt entities will not be required to comply with a self-certification process. However, where an exemption applies and all or a subset of contraceptive services are omitted from a plan’s coverage, otherwise applicable ERISA disclosures must reflect the omission of coverage in ERISA plans.

For more information on the interim final rules, please click here.