The Department of Labor and the Department of Health and Human Services jointly announced two final rules that provide specific protection to individuals who have a religious or moral objection to health insurance that covers contraceptive methods, including those that some view as abortifacients and/or sterilization procedures. These were issued in response to the religious exemption rules released last year.

The new rules maintain that the exemption applies only to any private, non-governmental employer that is not publicly traded to opt out of the contraceptive coverage mandate, in whole or in part, if they have religious beliefs or moral convictions against the contraceptive mandate. The new final rules maintain the availability of an accommodation, in which the insurer or third party administrator is responsible for providing contraceptive services to plan participants, however, it is voluntary and up to the employer. Entities can also choose to only request to be exempt from certain contraceptive items.

Like the interim final rules, the new set of final rules maintains that publicly traded companies are still required to comply with this mandate until additional rules are released.

The new final rules provide the following examples for entities that would qualify for a religious or moral exemption:

  • Churches, integrated auxiliaries, and religious orders with religious objections;
  • Nonprofit organizations with religious or moral objections;
  • For-profit entities that are not publicly traded, with religious or moral objections;
  • For-profit entities that are publicly traded, with religious objections;
  • Other non-governmental employers with religious objections;
  • Non-governmental institutions of higher education with religious or moral objections;
  • Individuals with religious or moral objections, with employer sponsored or individual market coverage, where the plan sponsor and/or issuer (as applicable) are willing to offer them a plan omitting contraceptive coverage to which they object;
  • Issuers with religious or moral objections, to the extent they provide coverage to a plan sponsor or individual that is also exempt.

Conclusion

In short, these new final rules generally follow the interim final rules, with additional details for insurers and third-party administrators on how to handle the request for coverage. The new rules go into effect 60 days after their official publication in the Federal Registrar, which is currently scheduled for November 15, 2018. Assurance will continue to monitor developments and keep clients abreast of the latest developments.

Questions? Reach out to your Assurance representative.

Information contained herein is not intended to constitute tax or legal advice and should not be used for purposes of evading or avoiding otherwise applicable regulatory responsibilities as issued by the federal or state government(s) and/or taxes owed under the Internal Revenue Code. You are encouraged to seek advice from your legal or tax advisor based on your circumstances.