HARRISBURG — Attorney General Michelle Henry lead a coalition of 22 states in urging the Biden Administration to significantly revise rules from the previous Administration that left individuals without contraceptive coverage who otherwise should have been entitled to complete coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Those rules, issued in 2017 and 2018, added broad exemptions that allowed nearly all types of employers to deny birth control coverage to their employees based on religious or moral objections. In a letter welcoming the Biden Administration’s proposal to rescind parts of the Trump-era rules, the coalition of Attorneys General highlighted that expanding access to birth control would help people live healthy, happy, and empowered lives.
“In providing for no-cost contraceptive coverage under the ACA, Congress understood that such coverage is a fundamental part of reproductive health,” Attorney General Henry said. “Particularly in light of the Supreme Court’s decision last year in Dobbs to overrule Roe v. Wade, and the wave of abortion restrictions that have followed in some states, it is more vital than ever that people everywhere have access to this preventative health care.”
The ACA’s contraceptive coverage mandate was signed into law in 2010 to correct historic inequities in women’s health care. It required all employers and sponsors of health plans to cover the cost of preventive services necessary for women’s health, including contraceptive services. It is estimated that more than 62 million women have benefited from the ACA’s birth control coverage mandate. Studies have shown that access to contraceptive care supports individuals’ ability to control their reproductive health, and promotes access to education, jobs, and financial empowerment.
After the Trump Administration issued broad religious and moral exemptions that allowed employers to stop providing contraceptive coverage if they had religious or moral objections, between 70,500 and 126,400 women are estimated to have lost birth control coverage.
In February this year, the Biden Administration proposed new regulations to correct these problems. The proposed regulation would:
- Rescind the moral exemption rule;
- Retain the religious exemption rule; and
- Create an Individual Contraceptive Arrangement (ICA) to ensure that patients enrolled in health plans or coverage sponsored by objecting entities would still have the opportunity to obtain contraceptive services at no cost.
In the letter, addressed to U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, and Acting U.S. Labor Secretary Julie Su, the coalition of Attorneys General welcome the Biden Administration proposal to restore access to cost-free contraceptive coverage for all Americans. The coalition letter further supports rescinding the moral exemption, and urges the Biden Administration to narrow the religious exemption, and make necessary improvements to the ICA, including:
- Expanding the ICA to include a wider spectrum of individuals who are excluded from contraceptive coverage;
- Carrying out a publicity and outreach campaign to inform patients and providers about the ICA and help them enroll in it; and
- Providing additional protections to secure patients’ privacy, safeguard them from retaliation, and create a process for contesting medical bills.
Today’s comment letter was led by Pennsylvania Attorney General Michelle Henry, California Attorney General Rob Bonta, Massachusetts Attorney General Andrea Joy Campbell, and New Jersey Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin. They were joined by the attorneys general of Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia.
A copy of the comment letter can be found here.
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