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Feds Seeking Public Comments on Religious Objections to Contraceptive Coverage - March 26, 2012

Last week HHS, DOL and Treasury issued an advanced notice of proposed rule-making seeking public comments on how best to accommodate the objections raised by religious organizations to mandated contraceptive coverage. HHS has been under scrutiny since it released interim final rules last August including FDA-approved contraceptives in the definition of preventative care that must be covered at 100% by non-grandfathered health plans. While the interim final rule contained a religious exemption it exempts only those non-profit religious organizations who primarily serve and employ individuals who share their religious tenets. Many religious-affiliated organizations, such as Catholic hospitals, universities, and charities, do not qualify for the exemption. After much public outcry, HHS announced in February that it would delay by one year the effective date of mandated contraceptive coverage for non-grandfathered plans sponsored by non-profit organizations with religious objections while it worked on a resolution to this issue. The agencies are now seeking comments on what this resolution should look like. Comments will be accepted through June 19, 2012.