Short Takes On News & Events

HHS Floats New Ideas For Contraception Coverage Compromise

By Jordan Rau

March 16th, 2012, 6:06 PM

Again wading into the conflict between religious liberty and reproductive rights, the Obama administration on Friday suggested a number of ways it might arrange for insurers to pay for the contraception of employees of religious organizations without using any premium money from those groups.

The ideas are intended to deal with a knotty problem created when the Department of Health & Human ServicesĀ announced last month that all insurance plans would be required to cover contraception as one of the free preventive services mandated by theĀ  health law — even if the plans were handling the health care claims of religious employers such as Catholic hospitals and universities.

The administration hasn’t formally proposed any of the ideas made public Friday as regulations. Instead, it offered them as possibilities in a notice seeking public comment. The notice encourages other ideas to be offered over the next 90 days. After that, the administration would formally propose a regulation with its preferred method or methods.

The problem is how to ensure that the money insurers spent on contraception was distinct from the premiums paid by the religious employers. This is an even greater challenge for a religious employer that doesn’t buy group insurance through an insurance plan, but instead self-insures, paying for the medical expenses of its workers on its own.

The possible solutions floated by the government would give the responsibility for this task to companies that manage the claims for these employers — technically known as third-party administrators.

Under one idea, contraception would be paid for from drug rebates, disease management program fees or other revenue that is part of an arrangement between the plan and another entity like a pharmaceutical company.

Another idea suggested by the administration is giving the insurer a credit or rebate against the amount that’s paid to a new reinsurance program set up by the health law to protect insurers that end up with extremely expensive consumers.

Alternatively, the administration said it is considering having a private insurer provide contraception coverage for employees who work for religious organizations. The administration said it is considering giving that job to insurers who under the health law would be selected to offer multistate plans in the exchanges where people will buy insurance on their own.

5 Responses to “HHS Floats New Ideas For Contraception Coverage Compromise”

  1. Randy says:

    Republicans are betting that fueling the flames of this fire will get them the White House and control of the Congress in November. They are also betting that women aren’t paying any attention to their neanderthal far right discussion. After all, the economy is beginning to slowly come back, the stock market is reaching new highs, unemployment rates are slowly dropping, troops are coming home in greater numbers, more people have access health care insurance, the rise in overall health care costs is gradually slowing, so what else can Republicans argue about? They believe that attacking women’s health and attacking Medicare and Social Security are their only chance to win in November. Republicans have no serious ideas. None! They just like starting fires.

  2. KD says:

    In response to the one comment left on this story – women on both sides are paying attention to this argument and paying attention closely. Not all women feel that contraception needs to provided free for any reason – hormonal therapy that is medically necessary? That would be an argument to have. There are many, MANY other women’s health issues where patients would benefit from free medications – breast and cervical cancer for instance. If birth control suddenly becomes unavailable, the argument being had would have much more clout and that is not going to happen.

    Lastly, IMO, if a person is taking the time to read and comment on a story from an organization such as this, I would hope that they would actually have a comment that did not include political rants about Democrats or Republicans, but rather focused on ideas. I would expect the political rants on newspaper threads. Just sayin’….

  3. Karen says:

    KD, I suggest your practice what you preach.

  4. WellRead29 says:

    I continue to be impressed (and disappointed) that we can have this argument and let it devolve into a partisan political position on religion, or “women’s rights” or “contraceptive freedom” or whatever term du jour we will seek to create to make us feel better about the outright issue this concerns. There is only one:

    Is it an employer’s resposibility to provide for his female employees (and his male employee’s spouses, female children, etc) free access to risk-free sex, child-free sex, or free “hormonal therapy” as it were for women.

    That’s it. Do you rob the employer, the insurance risk taker, the paperwork administrator for the company, or the taxpayer so women can have this gift?

    Can we please focus on the reality of that question?



  5. Steven Peters says:

    Every insurer is more than willing to let Uncle Sam force increased scope of coverage on policyholders. That’s how well pregnancy care got added to policies two generations ago, when pregnancy is not an illness and generally an elective condition. The issues are:
    1. Government wrongly interferes in private contracts.
    2. Government wrongly treats the taking of human life as a reproductive health issue.
    3. Government wrongly decides what religious sponsored activity is sufficiently religious to escape the preceding two wrongs.

    Insurance companies are either for-profit, shareholder owned companies or mutual, insured owned companies. Even for-profit insurance administrators that serve self-insured employers will incur uncompensated costs under this mandate. It is impossible to segregate the impact of this unconstitutional breach of the public trust from the participants in insurance affected by the regulation. The regulation is wrong, and should not be adopted.