New Rules Address Religious and Moral Objections to Certain Preventive Services Mandated Under the ACA

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) offers Americans new opportunities to find and purchase health care insurance. Employers with 50 or more full time employees (and full-time equivalents) are required to offer health insurance to their employees. However, some non-governmental entities object to providing contraceptive care through employee benefit plans on religious or moral grounds. New rules recently released by the Department of Labor (DOL), Health and Human Services (“HHS”), and the Department of Treasury (“Treasury”) address the issue of religious and moral objections to certain provisions of the ACA.

Objections to Certain ACA Provisions

Employers or individuals choose health insurance plans from the Health Insurance Marketplace. Those plans are required to cover the cost of birth control, as well as counseling for all women. Problems occur when a faith-based employer feels the contraceptive mandate goes against their religious beliefs. In addition, employers may object based on sincere moral convictions against contraceptives.

The Solution: Religious Exemptions and Accommodations

The DOL, HHS, Treasury and other government agencies published interim final rules on October 13, 2017. After review of solicited comments, the final rule were released on October 6, 2018 (the “Final Rule”). Under the Final Rule, certain groups are spared from providing contraceptive preventive services under the ACA. Specifically, the rules apply to the following objecting entities:  

churches, church auxiliaries, church associations, religious orders, non-governmental employers, nonprofits, for-profits, non-governmental institutions of higher education, insurers, and individuals with objections based on sincere religious beliefs.

An association health plan may be exempt if members of the association have strong religious beliefs about contraception. Even student health plans offered at institutions of higher education may be eligible for the rule’s exemption.  The application for exemption is available at: Healthcare.gov.

An optional accommodations process is available for exempt entities. An otherwise exempt employer or individual may offer contraceptive care if it wishes.

Do the New Rules Apply to Your Company’s Benefit Plan?

The attorneys at Hall Benefits Law use their extensive experience to help clients apply for exemptions, such as the religious and moral exemptions described above. Please call 678-439-6236 to discuss your concerns with an experienced attorney. Our website contains more information about our firm, a Contact Form, and free resources for your review. From our home office in Georgia, we assist clients throughout the United States.

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Hall Benefits Law, LLC

HBL offers employers comprehensive legal guidance on benefits in mergers and acquisitions, Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOPs), executive compensation, health and welfare benefits, healthcare reform, and retirement plans. We counsel a wide spectrum of clients including small, mid-sized, and large companies, 401(k) investment advisors, health insurance brokers, accountants, attorneys, and HR consultants, just to name a few. HBL is passionate about advising clients, and we are dedicated to our mission: to provide comprehensive, personalized, and practical ERISA and benefits legal solutions that exceed client expectations.

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