HHS guidance on insurance companies in violation of the HHS contraceptive mandate

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Ryan Colby 202-349-7219 media@becketlaw.org

The Hill, May 21, 2015

On Monday, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) quietly issued “guidance” to health insurance companies which were in violation of the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) contraceptive mandate. The department made this move after the Kaiser Family Foundation published a report showing that insurance companies are not covering all contraceptives that the ACA requires. Out of the twenty insurance carriers in 5 states that Kaiser surveyed, one did not cover the Nuva Ring, two did not covercontraceptive implants, one did not cover non-hormonal IUDs, and two did not cover the “emergency contraceptive” ella.

You would think these insurance companies would be quaking in their loafers. After all, the government has threatened nonprofit ministries like the Little Sisters of the Poor with millions of dollars in IRS fines for not letting their health plans be used to deliver contraceptives and abortion-causing drugs. Surely the government would be equally strict with big business.

You could not be more wrong. HHS instead said that its prior guidance “may reasonably have been interpreted in good faith” to allow insurance companies to exclude drugs to save money. But starting with the next plan year (which could begin as late as July 2016), they should provide all the drugs. There was not even a hint that failure to do so would result in fines.