The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Department of Labor (DOL) and Department of the Treasury (Treasury) Thursday jointly announced new guidelines intended to clarify protections for birth control coverage from both businesses and health insurance providers under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The guidance clearly states that despite recent changes in US abortion law any attempt to limit contraceptive coverage is still a violation of federal law.
The ACA currently requires that most private health plans provide birth control and family planning counseling at no additional cost. Despite this longtime rule, the recent decision by the US Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey has led some to question the legitimacy of these contraceptive requirements. Earlier this month, President Biden signed an Executive Order ensuring continued access to reproductive health care across the US.
Thursday’s announcement is intended to further strengthen the administration’s stance on these issues and to provide more practical guidance to those affected. In support of the guidance, HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra clarified that “under the ACA, you have the right to free birth control — no matter what state you live in.” He continued by saying that “with abortion care under attack, it is critical that we ensure birth control is accessible nationwide, and that employers and insurers follow the law and provide coverage for it with no additional cost.”
Labor Secretary Marty Walsh also said that “today’s guidance makes clear that the law requires group health plans and health insurance issuers to provide contraceptive coverage — including emergency contraception — at no cost to participants.” He further stressed:
We have heard troubling reports that plans and issuers are not following the law. We expect them to remove impermissible barriers and ensure individuals have access to the contraceptive coverage they need. If plans and issuers are not complying with the law, we will take enforcement action to ensure that participants receive this coverage, again with no cost sharing.