Monday, September 10, 2012

It's not over 'til it's over

In contrast to the brouhaha stirred up by the February 10, 2012 IFR (Interim Final Regulation) mandating contraceptive coverage, the revised IFR released August 15 has received relatively little public attention. (There's a link below to the revised IFR).

The revised IFR says it clarifies that non-church plan sponsors who have a religious objection to the mandatory coverage of contraceptives, may now obtain a one-year deferral of the regulation’s effective date if they meet certain criteria and self-certify their objection. 

The original February 10 IFR exempted church plans from having to cover contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures, and related patient education and counseling.  But the exemption did not apply to church-sponsored colleges, universities, hospitals and other organizations operated in furtherance of the churches' religious missions.  The churches and the church-related organizations objected to the February 10 IFR almost immediately.  The Catholic Church and other churches have sued the administration arguing among other things that the regulation violates the First Amendment.  It’s my understanding those actions are still pending.

The February 10 IFR was implemented August 1st as originally written.  The August 15 IFR states that "In reissuing this bulletin, CMS is not changing the February 10 policy."  While it is a clear abuse of words to call the reissued IFR a "compromise", the administration itself has never called it a compromise but was careful from the very first to call it an “accommodation”. Thus the sole purpose of the August 15 IFR is to add content "clarifying” that plan sponsors who have religious objections - other than churches themselves which are permanently exempted - can defer the effective date of contraceptive coverage in their plans . . . for one year.

The August 15 IFR contains the criteria for obtaining the one-year effective date deferral.  Organizations can obtain the one-year deferral by self-certifying that they meet the criteria.  Naturally, self-certification requires completion of forms, plus distribution of notices to plan members stating that contraceptive coverage will be delayed. 

The IFR as reissued August 15 is here. Additional background here and here and here and here. 

Meanwhile, some Catholic Universities have already begun to cancel their student health plans.

As Yogi Berra once said, “Its not over ‘til it’s over.” (Berra also said “I never said half the things I said.”)

Anyway, this is definitely not over.
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