For Immediate Release: April 4, 2023
Office of the Attorney General
– Matthew J. Platkin, Attorney General
TRENTON — Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin today co-led a coalition of 22 states in urging the Biden Administration eliminate dangerous Trump-era rules that allow employers to interfere in the reproductive health decisions of their employees. These rules took away contraceptive coverage from women and those with the capacity to become pregnant who should have been entitled to cost-free coverage under the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”). Those rules, issued in 2017 and made final in 2018, added broad, unreasonable exemptions that allowed nearly all types of employers to deny birth control coverage to their employees based on religious or moral objections.
Today, in a letter welcoming the Biden Administration’s proposal to rescind parts of the Trump-era rules, the coalition of Attorneys General highlighted that expanding access to birth control would help people live healthy and empowered lives.
“Everyone in this country has a right to high-quality reproductive health care and family planning services, a right that was chipped away by the previous administration,” said Attorney General Platkin. “We are urging the Biden Administration to restore those rights so every American has access to safe, affordable, and effective birth control no matter what their employers’ beliefs are.”
The ACA’s contraceptive coverage mandate was signed into law in 2010 to correct historic inequities in women’s health care. It required all employers and sponsors of health plans to cover the cost of preventive services necessary for women’s health, including contraceptive services. It is estimated that more than 62 million women have benefited from the ACA’s birth control coverage mandate. Studies have shown that access to contraceptive care supports people’s ability to control their own reproductive health, and promotes access to education, jobs, and financial empowerment.
The Trump Administration issued broad exemptions that allowed employers to stop providing contraceptive coverage if they had religious or moral objections. At the time, the Administration estimated that between 70,500 and 126,400 women would lose birth control coverage under the rules. The exemptions did not even require the employees to be informed before they lost coverage–the employer could simply object and never let the employee know.
In February of this year, the Biden Administration proposed new regulations to correct these problems. The proposed regulation would:
- Rescind the Trump-era moral exemption rule;
- Retain the Trump-era religious exemption rule; and
- Create an Individual Contraceptive Arrangement (ICA) to ensure that patients enrolled in health plans or coverage sponsored by objecting entities would still have the opportunity to obtain contraceptive services at no cost.
In the letter, addressed to U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, and Acting U.S. Labor Secretary Julie Su, the coalition of Attorneys General welcome the Biden Administration proposal to restore access to cost-free contraceptive coverage for all Americans. The coalition letter further supports rescinding the moral exemption, and urges the Biden Administration to narrow the religious exemption, which New Jersey continues to challenge in ongoing litigation, and make necessary improvements to the ICA, including:
- Expanding the ICA to include a wider spectrum of individuals who are excluded from contraceptive coverage;
- Carrying out a publicity and outreach campaign to inform patients and providers about the ICA and help them enroll in it; and
- Providing additional protections to secure patients’ privacy, safeguard them from retaliation, and create a process for contesting medical bills.
Today’s comment letter was led by Attorney General Platkin, California Attorney General Rob Bonta, Massachusetts Attorney General Andrea Joy Campbell, and Pennsylvania Attorney General Michelle Henry. They were joined by the Attorneys General of Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia.