Trump Admin Eases Obamacare Birth Control Mandate

Mother Loraine Marie Maguire, of the Little Sisters of the Poor, speaks to media after arguments at Supreme Court to examine whether Obamacare will require the Little Sisters to change health care plan to other services that violate Catholic teaching / Getty

The Trump administration announced Friday that it is expanding exemptions to an Affordable Care Act rule that requires employers to include birth control coverage in health plans.

The departments of Health and Human Services, Treasury, and Labor issued "interim final rules" to exempt more entities from providing plans that cover contraceptives without a copayment," CNBC reported.

The press secretary for the Department of Health and Human Services said the relaxed rules will create limited exemptions for organizations that have sincerely held religious or moral objections to providing birth control coverage.

"No American should be forced to violate his or her own conscience in order to abide by the laws and regulations governing our health care system," Caitlin Oakley said in a statement. "Today's actions affirm the Trump administration's commitment to upholding the freedoms afforded all Americans under our Constitution."

HHS claims the rules will not affect 99 percent of women currently covered, but some argue more companies than previously expected will now seek exemptions.

The Obama administration created an exemption that allowed "religious employers" to opt out of Obamacare's birth control mandate by notifying the government, which would then arrange with their insurance companies to provide the coverage directly.

The Little Sisters of the Poor, an order of Catholic nuns, sued over the mandate, leading to a split Supreme Court. The high court ruled that the government should not fine the Little Sisters but ordered the two sides to work out an arrangement that accommodates the order's religious beliefs.

Donald Trump became president before the issue was resolved.

Beyond the birth control mandate, HHS officials say they also plan stricter enforcement of a provision in the Affordable Care Act that prohibits federal subsidies from being used for policies that cover abortion, NPR reported Friday.