WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration is developing a new accommodation for religious nonprofit organizations that want to opt out of covering contraception in their health plans without having to fill out a form, according to a brief the Department of Justice filed on Tuesday in the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.
The move follows the Supreme Court's recent decision granting a temporary injunction to Wheaton College, an evangelical Protestant school in Illinois that is suing the administration over the contraception coverage rule. The Affordable Care Act requires all for-profit employers to cover contraception in their health plans at no cost to their employees, but contains a special accommodation for religiously affiliated nonprofits, such as schools and hospitals.
In order to opt out of paying for birth control, Wheaton College has to fill out a form claiming a religious exemption and directing a third-party insurer to pay for and administer the contraception coverage. But Wheaton claims that even if it doesn't have to pay for contraception coverage, the act of filling out a form violates its religious beliefs because the form acts as a "permission slip" for its employees to use birth control.
The Supreme Court is likely to take up Wheaton's case next session. By developing a new accommodation process, the administration may preemptively defend itself against the college's complaint.
“This is part of ensuring that all women have access to contraception coverage," a senior administration official told HuffPost in an email. "The administration believes the accommodation is legally sound, but in light of the Supreme Court order regarding Wheaton College, the Departments intend to augment their regulations to provide an alternative way for objecting non-profit religious organizations to provide notification, while ensuring that enrollees in plans of such organizations receive separate coverage of contraceptive services without cost sharing."
The official said details of the new rule have not yet been worked out. The departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Treasury are working on the rule together and will issue it within a month.