The Biden administration on Monday unveiled a proposal to bolster no-cost contraceptive coverage under the Affordable Care Act, a move to rewrite a Trump administration policy that allowed some employers to bypass the requirement.
The proposed rule from three federal agencies would remove an employer's ability to object to such coverage on moral grounds while still allowing religious objections. But individuals whose coverage is provided by employers or schools with religious objections could still access contraceptive care through a willing provider.
Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure said the proposal aims to "protect and promote" access to contraception and reproductive health care services
"If this rule is finalized, individuals who have health plans that would otherwise be subject to the ACA preventive services requirements but have not covered contraceptive services because of a moral or religious objection, would now have access," Brooks-LaSure said.
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What does the Biden proposal do?
Employers would still be allowed to object to contraceptive coverage on religious grounds, but the proposed rule would eliminate moral objections.
Individuals whose employer objects on religious grounds would have an "independent pathway" to obtain care from a "willing provider of contraceptive services." The health care provider would be paid by health plans sold on federal or state insurance exchanges, created under the former President Barack Obama's signature 2010 health law.
How did the Trump administration limit coverage?
In 2018, the Trump administration adopted a policy allowing any employer with religious objections or moral concerns to avoid the ACA's mandate that their insurance plans provide no-cost birth control coverage.
It was one of a series of moves the Trump administration pursued to weaken the ACA after repeated Republican attempts to repeal the law failed.
What's next for Biden's proposal?
The proposed rules from the departments of Health and Human Services, Labor and Treasury will be published in the Federal Register later this week. People will have 60 days to comment on the proposed rules. The process will take several months before the rules are finalized.
Mara Gandal-Powers, director of birth control access and senior counsel at National Women's Law Center, said her organization's goal is to make sure everyone who wants co-cost contraceptive care can get it.
"We're going to be looking at this with a close eye to make sure this is as easy as possible for consumers to know about it to make use of it," Gandal-Powers said.
The Biden administration has sought wider contraceptive coverage as conservative states move to enact tighter restrictions on abortion access after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, which had established the right to an abortion.
In light of the tightening state restrictions on abortion, advocates said the fight to access contraception has become the next big battleground.
"The ability to prevent pregnancy has taken on different weight in a lot of places," Gandal-Powers said.
Contributing: Maureen Groppe
Ken Alltucker is on Twitter at @kalltucker, or can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Biden proposal seeks to bolster Obamacare's contraception coverage