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Obama administration issues final rules on contraceptive coverage

The Obama administration [official website] on Friday issued final rules [text, PDF] requiring health insurance plans to provide women with contraceptive coverage without cost sharing. According to the rules, these final regulations seek to protect public health and guarantee women equal access to health care and are narrowly tailored so that certain organizations with religious objections do not have to "contract, arrange, pay or refer for such coverage." An exempt organization must be organized and operate as a nonprofit entity, and either be a religious employer under the Internal Revenue Code [text], or hold itself out as a religious organization and self-certify that it meets these requirements in a form and manner specified by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius [official profile]. Religious employers are exempt from providing contraceptive coverage. Religious organizations must notify its insurer that it objects to contraceptive coverage, and the insurer must notify its enrollees that it will provide them with "separate no-cost payments for contraceptive services for as long as they remain enrolled in the health plan."

In February the Obama administration issued a rule detailing a broader exemption to the contraception mandate, allowing for religious nonprofits that object to providing health insurance coverage for birth control to opt out of the requirement. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act [text, JURIST backgrounder], enacted in 2010, requires employer-provided health care to cover government-recommended preventive services, including birth control pills and sterilization procedures, without co-payments. Since the Act's conception, the Obama administration has been faced with numerous lawsuits [Huffington Post report] from private companies as well as state attorney generals' offices [JURIST reports].

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