The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) wants to let some nonprofit religious employers avoid paying for birth control benefits but help those employers' workers get birth control coverage through a different channel.
A new HHS interim final rule would let eligible nonprofit employers with religious ties, such as schools and hospitals, avoid paying for birth control benefits. HHS would make free access to birth control benefits available to those employers' workers by having HHS contact the insurer — or by having the U.S. Department of Labor contact the administrator of a self-insured plan — and having the insurer or the benefit plan administrator provide separate birth control coverage for the workers at no cost to the workers.
HHS has been trying to come up with another approach for nonprofit hospitals with religious ties, nonprofit schools with religious ties, and other nonprofit employers with religious affiliations. For those employers, HHS has been trying to make birth control benefits available to the workers without requiring the employers to provide the benefits.
Earlier this year, in a decision on a case involving Hobby Lobby, the Supreme Court knocked down HHS efforts to apply the birth control benefits mandate to closely held for-profit employers. The court held that HHS had violated a federal law protecting the religious rights of corporations by failing to make any effort to accommodate the employers' religious principles.