While the Trump administration and its Republican majority in both the House and the Senate have been unable to move the needle on an Obamacare repeal, they are still working on reforming healthcare. Their latest attempt rolls back the Obama-era requirement that employer-provided health insurance must cover birth control methods.
NPR, reporting on the issue, cited senior officials with the Department of Health and Human Services that say the new rules will let those companies and employers who object becasue of religious reasons opt out of this part of the coverage.
“This provides an exemption, and it’s a limited one,” Roger Severino, director of the HHS Office of Civil Rights, told NPR. “We should have space for organizations to live out their religious identity and not face discrimination.”
Severino points out that this change will not impact most American women. The percentage affected will be very small. Yet the rule goes into effect now.
Others don’t see the new ruling in the limited context that Severino sees it. Women who are caught up in this exemption will now have to pay the full cost of their birth control.
“It is a huge loophole for any employer that does not want to provide birth control coverage to their employees,” Georgetown University’s Center on Health Insurance Reform’s Dania Palanker explained.
“A lot of women will retain birth control coverage, but there will be a lot of women who will lose that coverage. Women shouldn’t be denied access to basic health care based on their employers’ religious beliefs,” she said. “We all have the right to our religious beliefs. But the way that this rule treats religion is really an excuse to discriminate.”
The push back from the religious right is part of what motivated President Trump to champion this change. “The change fulfills a promise President Trump made in May to the Catholic religious order The Little Sisters of the Poor in a ceremony in the White House Rose Garden,” NPR writes. “The nuns had sued the Obama administration over the birth control requirement.”
“Your long ordeal will soon be over,” he told the nuns.
The Obama administration itself tried to counter the criticism by creating an exemption for churches. Groups that opted out did so with the consent of the Obama administration and the government provided the coverage in the company’s place.
That wasn’t acceptable to the Little Sisters, who pressed on with their lawsuit. Hobby Lobby joined in with a litigious protest of their own. That case, one that covered 32,000 employees, made it all the way to the Supreme Court. Hobby Lobby won their case.
Obama’s decisions ended up being tested in court. Will Trump’s?