The CCIIO, an arm of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), has added options aimed at nonprofit religious employers that object to the idea of including contraceptive services coverage in their health benefits packages.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (PPACA) requires individual health insurers and group health plans to cover a basic set of preventive services created by the U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) secretary without imposing deductibles, co-payment requirements, or other cost-sharing requirements on the patients.
HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has ruled that the preventive services packages should include services and products aimed at women — including Pap smears and breastfeeding supplies as well as contraceptive services — starting with plan years beginning on or after Aug. 1.
The safe harbor CCIIO issued in February frees houses of worship, religious denominations and other clearly religious employers from having to offer birth control benefits.
The safe harbor does not provide an exemption for colleges, hospitals and other types of nonprofit employers that are formally or informally affiliated with religious organizations.
The February safe harbor does create a temporary exemption for other nonprofit employers that are not eligible for the religious employer exemption but have been refusing to offer contraceptive benefits for religious reasons.
Many religious organizations, hundreds of members of Congress and at least 7 states have opposed the birth control coverage requirement and what they believe to be the narrow scope of the safe harbor.