A draft of a proposed rule change to the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate leaked to Vox suggests that the Trump administration is planning a major carve-out to the mandate, which has been subject of intense legal volleying and political debate.
The draft rule, dated May 23 and posted by Vox on Wednesday morning, would allow any employer—from small mom-and-pop shops to publicly-traded corporations—to opt out of the mandate on religious or moral grounds. It would also let insurers refrain from covering contraceptives for religious or moral reasons. The draft rule would allow individuals with religious or moral objections to refrain from participating in plans covering contraceptives.
The leak comes after the Trump administration signaled it would scale back the mandate via an interim final rule, a fast-tracked process that would allow the regulation to go into effect immediately after it’s finalized. Earlier this month, President Donald Trump signed a vague executive order on religious freedom, and a notice that a proposed rule had been sent to the Office of Management and Budget, which must approve it, was posted last week.
The draft rule published by Vox says that the goal of the departments behind the proposed regulation—the Department of Health and Human Services, the Treasury and the Department of Labor—”is to provide rules so that the healthcare system can be inclusive or people who have different conscientious views on certain sensitive matters.”
“Expanding the exemption removes religious and moral obstacles that entities and certain individuals may face who otherwise wish to participate in the healthcare market,” the draft rule goes on to say.
It requires religious objectors to communicate in their plan documents that contraceptive services would not be covered, and also to inform their employees of any change in benefits, according to Vox.
An accommodation process created by the Obama administration that triggered coverage of contraceptive services by a third party administrator would still be available to, but not required of, employers opting out of the mandate under Trump’s draft rule. Thus, it is possible and perhaps likely that women working for objecting employers would lose their birth control coverage.
The White House and the departments involved with the draft rule did not respond to Vox’s requests for comment.