U.S. seeks to expand birth control coverage under Obamacare

A sign on an insurance store advertises Obamacare in San Ysidro
A sign on an insurance store advertises Obamacare in San Ysidro, San Diego, California, U.S., October 26, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake

WASHINGTON, Jan 30 (Reuters) - Women whose employers have opted out of covering contraceptives under their health insurance plans on religious grounds would gain no-cost access to birth control under a rule proposed by the Biden administration on Monday.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare, requires private insurance plans to cover recommended preventive services including contraception without any patient cost-sharing, but current regulations grant exemptions for religious or moral objections.

If the new rule is implemented, women enrolled in plans governed by the ACA would gain birth control coverage regardless of employer exemption, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said in a statement.

"Today's proposed rule works to ensure that the tens of millions of women across the country who have and will benefit from the ACA will be protected. It says to women across the country, we have your back," said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra.

Under existing regulations, those enrolled in plans that do not cover contraception on religious or moral grounds can only access contraceptive services through an accommodation that employers can decline to offer.

Under the new rule, a provider would offer contraception at no cost to the employee and be reimbursed by an insurer, who would receive a credit from the government.

The rule would also remove employer moral objections as grounds for exemption from coverage but keep religious ones in place.

Reporting Ahmed Aboulenein in Washington and Manas Mishra in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D'Silva, Devika Syamnath and Cynthia Osterman

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Thomson Reuters

Washington-based correspondent covering U.S. healthcare and pharmaceutical policy with a focus on the Department of Health and Human Services and the agencies it oversees such as the Food and Drug Administration, previously based in Iraq and Egypt.