The Obama administration will issue new rules backing off Obamacare’s birth control mandate yet again, in response to a spate of Supreme Court rulings that the requirement violates employers’ religious liberty.
The controversial birth control mandate originally required employers to provide 20 types of contraception to employees at no cost, but the administration offered an accommodation in response to outcry from religious employers that oppose certain types of birth control. After the Supreme Court took opponents’ side twice so far this summer, the administration is backing off its prized mandate yet again.
Religious nonprofits were required to submit a form to a third-party insurer or administrator notifying the company of their religious objection to the birth control coverage, which would require the insurer to cover the cost of birth control for workers. After the Supreme Court buffeted a lawsuit against the mandate by Wheaton College in July, the administration is revising the rules to require religious nonprofits to notify the federal government of their objection instead. (RELATED: Supreme Court Grants Christian College Injunction Over Obamacare Religious Exemption)
And because the Supreme Court ruled that the mandate violates the religious liberty of closely-held for-profit businesses as well, the federal government will extending the accommodation to religious for-profits as well. The administration is seeking comment on the new rules and a version isn’t yet finalized.
The administration is trying to satisfy the Supreme Court’s objections to the Obamacare provision, but religious opponents to the mandate are unlikely to be placated by the changes.
“It is simply another clerical layer to an already existing accounting gimmick that does nothing to protect religious freedom because the employer still remains the legal gateway by which these drugs and services will be provided to their employees,” said Arina Grossu of the Family Research Council, a Christian nonprofit that focuses on religious liberty.
It’s not clear what the highest court’s response will be to the updated accommodation. But the latest retreat is another sign that the health care law isn’t as stable against legal challenges as its supporters may have hoped.