On Friday, President Trump's administration made significant changes to Obamacare's original birth control mandate, making it easier for employers across the United States to withhold contraceptive coverage from employees. While religious organizations were always exempt from having to provide contraceptive coverage, the new rules issued by the Department of Health and Human Services — effective immediately — make it easier for a wider group of organizations to withhold birth control coverage on religious or moral grounds. It's scary news for women, so it's totally understandable if you're asking: "Will my birth control be affected by Trump's rule?" Here's how to tell.
According to the National Women's Law Center, over 62 million women in the United States currently get the costs of birth control covered (paying nothing out-of-pocket) thanks to the Obamacare mandate. How many of those women will be affected, however, remains to be seen, since Trump's rule now allows any employers (at private firms, nonprofits, and publicly traded companies alike) to withhold contraception coverage as long as they have a "sincerely held religious or moral objection" to doing so, as senior HHS officials told CNN on Friday.
If that seems vague, that's part of the reason women's rights organizations are so angry about it. The Department of Health and Human Services told The Washington Post that "99.9 percent of women" receiving contraceptive coverage through the Affordable Care Act wouldn't be affected, but other organizations have debated that number.
"There is no way to know how many women will be affected," Alina Salganicoff, director of women's health policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation, told CNN on Friday. Both the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Women's Law Center have announced that they will be suing the Trump administration in an attempt to block the new contraceptive rules.
The women most likely to be affected by this law right away are those employed by companies or organizations that have already filed lawsuits over the Obamacare birth control mandate. According to The Washington Post, HHS officials told reporters that around 200 companies had filed 50 lawsuits regarding the mandate, leading to an estimate that around 120,000 women — those groups' employees — could be affected. Out of 62 million women, that doesn't sound so bad, right?
However, it's not clear how many other companies will come out of the woodwork with newfound religious or moral objections to providing contraceptive coverage now that the mandate has been loosened. After all, of the 45 companies that had received exemptions for the Obamacare contraceptive mandate by August 2017, only 21 were religiously affiliated nonprofits or educational institutions, according to the Center for American Progress. The rest were for-profit corporations that included lumber companies, real estate groups, and electrical equipment suppliers.
Employers who decide to change their coverage for women's contraception don't need to file any documents with government officials — they simply need to inform their employees of the change, according to The New York Times, .
If you're concerned that you could lose your birth control coverage, consider talking to your employer about any insurance changes that could be coming up within the company. Some might even consider getting a longer-term form of birth control, such as an intrauterine device (IUD), while their birth control is still covered by their employer. (After all, according to the National Women's Law Center, about 87 percent of insured women would have no out-of-pocket costs for for a regular IUD.)
At the moment, the only way to know if your company will remove your contraceptive coverage, unless they've already taken part in a lawsuit, is to wait for them to let employees know or ask them directly. Hopefully for the women whose birth control coverage depends on the Obamacare mandate, a court will move to block Trump's rule ASAP.
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