The Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight (CCIIO) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has issued
a bulletin providing further guidance on the coverage of contraceptive services without cost sharing. In an August 2011 interim final rule (IFR), HHS required non-grandfathered health plans to provide such coverage beginning August 1, 2012, but also included a temporary safe harbor from enforcement in the rule for employers objecting based on religious reasons. In this latest guidance, CCIIO clarifies what types of employers are eligible for the safe harbor and when specifically it can be invoked.
To qualify for the temporary enforcement safe harbor and thus be excluded from the contraceptive coverage mandate, organizations must be nonprofits, from February 10, 2012 onward, they must not have provided contraceptive coverage due to religious beliefs; they are mandated to disclose to participants that contraceptives are not covered; and they must self-certify that they satisfy the three aforementioned criteria.
The Obama administration noted that the ACA provision would provide women with access to preventive services, including contraceptives, without cost sharing, while ensuring nonprofit religious organizations are not forced to cover any contraceptive service to which they object.