The Obama administration said that health insurance plans must cover contraceptives for women free of charge, and rejected a broad exemption sought by the Roman Catholic Church for insurance provided to employees of Catholic hospitals, colleges and charities. Employers and insurers must comply this by August 1st 2012.
The rule takes a big step to remove cost as a barrier to birth control, which was a longtime goal of advocates for women's rights and experts on women's health. Scientists have enough documented evidence that birth control has significant health benefits for women and reduces health costs.
Certain religious employers including houses of worship are exempted under this rule. But they say that the exemption is very narrow and almost meaningless. The exemption cannot be taken as a qualification by a religious employer if it employs or serves large numbers of people of a different faith, as many Catholic hospitals, universities and social service agencies do.
Certain nonprofit employers who do not provide contraceptive coverage in their insurance plan, based on religious beliefs, have a one-year grace period to comply with the rule.
Under this rule, all group health insurance plans must cover the FDA approved contraceptive methods as well as emergency contraceptives including the ella pills and Plan B. Sterilization procedures for women are also required to be covered under this rule, without co-payments or deductibles.