How I Spent My Summer Vacation: Worrying About the Future of Birth Control

Clearly, I know how to have fun.  But, the Affordable Care Act’s birth control benefit has been so beneficial to women and families, and the threats to it from the Trump Administration have never loomed larger.  Over 55 million women currently have coverage of birth control without out-of-pocket costs, like co-pays and deductibles, thanks to the Affordable Care Act.  But for some people whose employers object to birth control coverage, this important benefit is all but secure.
Thanks to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed by the Center for American Progress, we already know that at least 45 employers across the country have objections to including coverage for some or all forms of birth control in their employer health plans. But those 45 employers are just the tip of the iceberg. That’s because:

  • Even the government doesn’t have full picture of employers who object to birth control coverage. Employers don’t have to notify the government of their objections – they can just let their insurance company know directly under the current accommodation. The insurance companies have to provide birth control coverage directly to the employees without the employer’s involvement. There are likely many other employers already doing this.
  • The FOIA only captures employers who notified the government within a specific timeframe: January 2014 through March 2016. But employers could have notified the government of their objection to covering birth control as early as August 2013 and up through the date the FOIA was filed (and after that).  There are close to 20 months’ worth of potential employer notifications that the government did not provide.
  • The FOIA doesn’t include all of the employers – like Hobby Lobby, University of Notre Dame, and the Catholic Benefits Association – that have gone to court to be able to refuse to provide their employees birth control coverage. And a group like the Catholic Benefits Association has over 1,000 other employers that are its members who object to birth control coverage.

There truly are an unknown number of employers that want to be totally exempt from the birth control benefit.  Right now, this kind of exemption is only available to a narrow group of employers that have religious objections to birth control, like churches and other houses of worship.  And apparently, the Trump Administration plans to give these employers exactly what they want.  The Administration will attack birth control coverage by, essentially, driving a Mack truck through the rule and letting any employer with religious or moral objections to birth control be exempt.  Who knows how many more employers will come out of the woodwork to claim an exemption if that happens.
Bottom line: Untold numbers of people could lose birth control coverage entirely if the Trump Administration rolls back the birth control benefit.
 And that’s what I spent my summer vacation thinking about.