Health Plans Dropping Contraceptive Coverage Must Notify Participants

By Ilyse Wolens Schuman

In response to the recent U.S. Supreme Court holding in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby that closely held, for-profit entities with religious objections to certain aspects of the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) birth control requirements could avoid the mandate by invoking the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the U.S. Department of Labor has released guidance to address this eventuality.

In the latest set of Frequently Asked Questions on the ACA’s implementation, the Labor Department explains that group health plans offered by closely held, for-profit businesses that intend to cease providing all or some contraceptive coverage must notify plan participants within 60 days after the adoption of a modification or change to the plan’s coverage.

What the Labor Dept. advises

FAQ part XX advises:

If an ERISA plan excludes all or a subset of contraceptive services from coverage under its group health plan, the plan’s [summary plan description] must describe the extent of the limitation or exclusion of coverage. For plans that reduce or eliminate coverage of contraceptive services after having provided such coverage, expedited disclosure requirements for material reductions in covered services or benefits apply.”

The FAQ explains that in addition to this notice, “other disclosure requirements may apply, for example, under State insurance law applicable to health insurance issuers.”

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The new FAQ was posted the same day Sen. Dick Durbin, D-IL, introduced the Preventive Care Coverage Notification Act (S. 2629), which would require for-profit corporations to notify job applicants in advance as to whether the employer did not intend to provide contraceptive coverage.

This was originally published on Littler Mendelson’s Workplace Policy Update blog© 2014 Littler Mendelson. All Rights Reserved. Littler®, Employment & Labor Law Solutions Worldwide® and ASAP® are registered trademarks of Littler Mendelson, P.C.

Ilyse W. Schuman is a shareholder in the Washington, D.C. office of Littler Mendelson. She provides strategic counsel and representation to clients on a broad array of workplace issues and developments in Congress and executive branch federal agencies.

She is a member of the firm's Government Affairs practice and works with employers in multiple industries, including trade associations. She also leads the firm's Legislative and Regulatory practice.

A former top congressional staffer and policy advisor, Ilyse worked on the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions from 2001 to 2008, serving as minority staff director and chief counsel. She began her work in the Senate as chief labor counsel for Senator Mike Enzi on the Subcommittee on Employment, Safety and Training, where she led legislative and oversight activities.

After leaving the Senate, Schuman joined a leading trade association of electro-industry manufacturers as vice president, where she served as managing director of the Medical Imaging and Technology Alliance, the collective voice of medical imaging equipment manufacturers. Additionally, she served as in-house counsel at a manufacturer and market and technology leader, where she advised the company on human resource matters. In law school, she was a member of the Journal of Law and Policy in International Business.

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