The Trump Administration just expanded the range of employers who can claim exemptions from the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that birth control be made available as part of any insurance policy.
This latest rewriting of the federal policy, in an interim final rule that takes effect immediately, broadens the entities that may claim religious objections to providing contraceptive coverage to nonprofit organizations and for-profit companies, even ones that are publicly traded. Also included are higher educational institutions that arrange for insurance for their students, as well as individuals whose employers are willing to provide health plans consistent with their beliefs.
A separate section covers moral objections, allowing exemptions under similar circumstances except for publicly traded companies.
The Administration is spinning the effect of this as minimal:
…administration officials estimate that 120,000 women at most will lose access to free contraceptives — many fewer than critics predict.
They write that they do not know how many employers or insurers that omitted contraceptive coverage before the ACA did so based on religious beliefs that would now allow them to be exempt. For that reason, the law says, HHS cannot predict how many entities will want exemptions, other than the groups that have filed recent lawsuits or made other public statements against the Obama-era policy.
Does anyone really think that only those who sued will drop coverage for contraceptives? Doesn’t this look like a blank check to deny anything if it can be claimed to violate “religious liberties”?
Roger Severino, director of HHS’s office for civil rights and a longtime proponent of religious liberties [said]…”We should have space for organizations to live out their religious identity and not face discrimination because of their faith.”
How many corporations have a “religious identity?” But how many will claim one now that a free pass has been issued?
This is why evangelicals still back Trump. Their morals are, shall we say, flexible. As long as the President hands them victories like this and give them judges who are socially conservative they’ll happily overlook his history of sexual assaults, theft of wages from employees and subcontractors and fraudulent enterprises, as well as his lying and warmongering since he’s been in office.
Oh, by the way: the Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that savings on the birth control pill have made up more than half of the drop in all out-of-pocket prescription drug spending since August 2012 when the mandate that some form of birth control be covered took effect.