The recent controversy over whether entities owned by religious organizations that serve the broader public – like hospitals and universities – can deny contraceptive coverage to their employees is simply political grandstanding. In fact, we dealt easily with this issue in North Carolina many years ago.
North Carolina mandated that all insurance plans provide contraceptive coverage back in the 1990s. Churches were clearly exempted, but not entities like hospitals and schools that employ and educate many women –even a majority of women – who are not affiliated with the religion of the organization that started the institution and who deserve the same health coverage as all other women in the United States.
Why was this not a major issue in NC?
1. It’s a justice issue. Covering birth control as part of preventive coverage saves families $26 a month on average, helping families in tough economic times.
2. Birth control is basic preventive care – it respects others to make important life decisions and gives people more options over when and whether to have child.
3. Coverage of birth control services with no co-pay helps prevent unintended pregnancies and reduces the need for abortions.
The federal Affordable Care Act looked to many states and followed NC’s commonsense exemption of churches and primarily religious institutions almost exactly.
Here’s the federal Affordable Care Act’s definition of a “religious employer” who would be exempt from the mandate to offer contraceptive coverage to employees:
A religious employer is one that: (1) has the inculcation of religious values as its purpose; (2) primarily employs persons who share its religious tenets; (3) primarily serves persons who share its religious tenets; and (4) is a non-profit organization under Internal Revenue Code section 6033(a)(1) and section 6033(a)(3)(A)(i) or (iii). 45 C.F.R. §147.130(a)(1)(iv)(B)
Here’s North Carolina’s definition of a “religious employer” who would be exempt from the mandate to offer contraceptive coverage to employees:
(e) …As used in this subsection, the term “religious employer” means an entity for which all of the following are true:
(1) The entity is organized and operated for religious purposes and is tax exempt under section 501(c)(3) of the U.S. Internal Revenue Code.
(2) The inculcation of religious values is one of the primary purposes of the entity.
(3) The entity employs primarily persons who share the religious tenets of the entity. (1999?231, s. 1; 1999?456, s. 15(a).)