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Birth Control Mandate Rollback: An Explainer

By Featured, News

Illustration by Hannah Sun.

On Friday, October 6, President Trump rolled back an Obama-era rule under the Affordable Care Act that required insurance companies to cover birth control. What does this mean if you’re a student at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC)? 

What was the rule before?
Under the Affordable Care Act, the Obama Administration issued a mandate that removed the cost barrier to obtaining birth control. This meant that insurance companies were required to cover birth control without copayment.

What is the rule now?
The rule now rolls back the requirement that employers must include birth control coverage in their health care plans if they have religious or, even more broadly, moral objections to paying for such healthcare.

Why did they change it?
The primary reason the White House gave for issuing this rollback was that of religious freedom. The President’s administration said in a statement that the “application of the mandate to entities with sincerely held religious objections to it does not serve a compelling governmental interest.”

What are the implications?
The implications of this are not likely to be felt immediately, according to Dan Mendelson of the firm Avalere Health in a statement he made to the Associated Press. We do not know yet what the standard for moral objections and the changes will in most cases not come until next year when insurance providers re-up their plans. What we do know is that there were 200 employers who raised their objections to the Obama-era rule, and if they are excepted from providing contraceptive coverage, it will affect at least 120,000 women.

I spoke to Emily Lenz, a nurse practitioner with SAIC’s Health Services about how students at SAIC might be affected by this rule:

F Newsmagazine: How might students on their parents health insurance be affected?

Emily Lenz:
The new mandate will allow any company or nonprofit group to exclude coverage for contraception if it has a religious or moral objection. Currently only exempt religious employers (like churches) are able to do this. Students could lose coverage for birth control. However, just because the mandate is being rolled back does not necessarily mean that a student’s parent’s company will change how they currently cover contraception.

F: How can they find out if their coverage has changed?

EL: Insurance companies provide information through brochures and websites. They will send updated information when policies and coverage change. If a student is on their parent’s insurance, their parent will receive this information.

F: How will students on health insurance through the school might be affected?

EL: SAIC would have to hold a religious or moral objection to providing contraception in order for this to change current coverage.

F: What are some resources for students looking for contraception?

EL: Planned Parenthood and clinics such as Chicago Women’s Health Center work with people without insurance coverage to provide affordable contraception. There are also online resources such as Nurx, Prjkt Ruby, and The Pill Club that provide free or low-cost birth control. (Here’s an article from Bedsider.org about these resources.) Any student who has concerns about their coverage for contraception are welcome to come to Health Services and we will work with them to explore affordable options based on their specific needs.

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