- Any company or nonprofit group can now seek to opt out of the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) contraceptive mandate, thanks to new regulations the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) rolled out Friday. Until now, those waivers have only been available to certain religious employers.
- According to NPR, HHS officials said the administration wants to allow any employer to exclude health plan coverage for contraception if it has a religious or moral objection.
- HHS only expects about 200 employers (those that have filed suits over the requirements) to pursue waivers, it told NPR; one expert, however, told the outlet that there are many other business owners who hold strong religious beliefs but perhaps did not want to bother with the publicity and expense that comes with suing the government.
The changes are called "interim final rules with request for comments." This means that although they take effect immediately, the government will accept comments from stakeholders. According to the Office of the Federal Register, if an agency decides not to make changes to an interim rule in response to comments, it generally will publish a brief final rule in the Federal Register confirming that decision.
According to a recent Willis Towers Watson survey, many employers say they'd likely keep ACA provisions that are popular with workers, even if they were no longer required to do so by law. This included contraceptive coverage; the survey found that employers are nearly six times more likely to maintain coverage at the current level than they are to reduce it (59% versus 11%).
Stakeholders who wish to comment have until Dec. 5 to do so.