Biden hopes to increase access for free birth control and other contraceptives

On Jan. 30, the United States Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor and Treasury proposed a rule that would remove an exemption to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that allows employers to opt out of free contraceptives for moral convictions.
The ACA was enacted in March 2010 under the administration of former President Barack Obama, which has notably made birth control and contraceptive services free. However, in 2018 former President Donald Trump made a change to the ACA, allowing private health plans and insurers to exclude coverage of contraceptive services if they have a religious or moral obligation.
Former President Donald Trump’s ruling gave “bosses the power to dictate how their employees can and cannot use their health insurance – allowing them to intrude into their employees’ private decisions based on whatever personal beliefs their employers happen to hold,” said Lourdes Rivera, senior vice president for U.S. programs at the Center for Reproductive Rights. About 62 million women depended on free birth control which was taken away by employers who put the exemptions in place proposed by Trump.
The proposed new rule would “create an independent pathway for individuals enrolled in plans arranged or offered by objecting entities to make their own choice to access contraceptive services directly through a willing contraceptive provider without any cost.”
Women and others who will use the new pathway to get their birth control will have their provider be reimbursed by an insurer on the ACA exchanges. Then, that insurer “would receive a credit on the user fee it pays the government.”
CNN reports that it may take many months to finalize the new rule because “officials expect many public comments.”
If this rule is finalized, it would be a huge step in the Biden administration’s goal to ensure access to reproductive health care.
The Biden administration said this proposal will “further the government’s interest in promoting coverage for contraceptive services for all women, and in eliminating barriers to access, while respecting the religious objections of employers, health insurance issuers, and institutions of higher education to coverage of contraceptive services.”
Since Trump’s administration added the restriction, students at religious universities that provide health insurance to students have not had access to free birth control and contraceptive services. With this new rule, students will have access to free birth control and other contraceptives.
Many people will benefit from this new rule, but it is up to health care providers to educate their patients on the independent pathway. Providers and insurers will also need to be willing to set it up for people.
Planned Parenthood Federation of America CEO Alexis McGill Johnson said, “Employers and universities should not be able to dictate personal health care decisions and impose their views on their employees or students.”
Since the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, where the constitutional right to abortion was overturned, the right to contraceptive services have been important to those affected.
This proposed rule would be one step forward in the fight for women to regain easier access to reproductive healthcare, after Trump and the Supreme Court made it increasingly harder for women to obtain certain rights regarding reproductive healthcare.