NHeLP Comments on Coverage of Certain Preventive Services under ACA

Executive Summary

NHeLP comments on CMS-9968-P / Coverage of Certain Preventive Services Under the Affordable Care Act.

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
P.O. Box 8013
Baltimore, MD  21244-1850

RE:
CMS-9968-P
Coverage of Certain Preventive Services Under the Affordable Care Act

Dear Sir/Madam:

The National Health Law Program (“NHeLP”) is pleased to offer these comments on the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPRM”) for Certain Preventive Services Under the Affordable Care Act, from the Department of the Treasury, Department of Labor, and Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) (“Departments”) published in the Federal Register on February 6, 2013.1 NHeLP protects and advances the health rights of low-income and underserved individuals. The oldest non-profit of its kind, NHeLP advocates, educates and litigates at the federal and state levels. Consistent with this mission, NHeLP works to ensure that all people in the United States—including women—have access to preventive health services. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“ACA”) similarly recognizes that preventive health services are critical to individual and community health, and that cost is often a barrier to accessing needed preventive services. By explicitly requiring that health insurance plans cover women’s preventive health services without cost-sharing, the ACA further acknowledges the critical role that a woman’s health plays in the health and well-being of her family and her community, as well as her disproportionately lower earnings.

NHeLP continues to strongly support HHS’ rule requiring that most new health insurance plans cover women’s preventive health services—including contraception— without cost-sharing. We expressed our views on this issue in our June 19, 2012 comments on the Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“ANPRM”) for Certain Preventive Services Under the Affordable Care Act. HHS’ “Women’s Preventive Services: Required Health Plan Coverage Guidelines” are a significant triumph for millions of women who are currently insured or who will obtain health insurance through the ACA. Adherence to these guidelines will ensure that most women have access to contraception without expensive co-pays, saving some women up to $600 per year. We are therefore very concerned that the Departments are proposing “exemptions” and “accommodations” with regard to compliance with § 2713 of the Public Health Services Act (“PHS Act”) for certain “religious employers” and other “eligible organizations.” Such an approach will create delays and erect barriers to contraceptive access. It will, moreover, not only undermine the intent of the ACA, but the health and autonomy of affected women as well. We therefore urge the Departments to reject their proposed approach.

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