Federal Agencies Clarify Contraception Mandate with Newly Expanded Religious Freedom Protections

Two federal agencies have jointly issued new regulations providing relief for religious employers from the contraception mandate under the Affordable Care Act.

These interim final regulations from the Department of Labor and the Department of Health and Human Services became effective on October 6 but are available for formal public comment through December 5.

The agencies offered this context to describe the purpose of these clarified regulations: “The United States has a long history of providing conscience protections in the regulation of health care for entities and individuals with objections based on religious beliefs and moral convictions. These interim final rules expand exemptions to protect religious beliefs for certain entities and individuals whose health plans are subject to a mandate of contraceptive coverage through guidance issued pursuant to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.”

Christianity Today summarizes the practical impact of these changes: “More employers—including Christian-run businesses and nonprofits—can opt out of contraception coverage required under the Affordable Care Act thanks to new rules issued by the Trump administration. The regulations exempt employers who object to treatments like birth control pills, emergency contraception, and sterilization due to ‘sincerely held religious beliefs’ or ‘moral convictions.’”

Read the full interim final rules with request for comments at Religious Exemptions and Accommodations for Coverage of Certain Preventive Services Under the Affordable Care Act.

This text is provided with the understanding that ECFA is not rendering legal, accounting, or other professional advice or service. Professional advice on specific issues should be sought from an accountant, lawyer, or other professional.


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