This week, the Franciscan University of Steubenville became the first university to cease offering health insurance to its students in response to what has become known as the "HHS Mandate." As many religious employers are aware, on January 20, 2012, the Department of Health and Human Services ("HHS") finalized regulations under the Patient Protection Affordable Care Act ("ACA Regs"). These ACA Regs require almost all employers with more than 50 employees to offer health insurance plans that will fully cover reproductive "preventive health services." Covered services include sterilization procedures and the contraceptive drugs known as Plan B (the "morning after" pill) and ulipristal or ella (the "week after" pill), which are considered to be abortifacients or abortion-inducing medicines.
The regulations require employer compliance in all plan years beginning on or after August 1, 2012. Employers that fail to comply with the regulations may face fines as high as $100 per day for each employee receiving a health insurance plan that fails to comply with the regulation. A non-exempted employer with more than 50 employees that decides to stop offering health care coverage to its employees, will be forced to pay an annual fine of about $2,000 for each employee beyond the first 30 workers, who is not offered a health plan. However, there are a few situations under which an employer with religious objections to such coverage may avoid the August 1, 2012 compliance deadline. This Alert discusses three primary exemption scenarios, the second of which applies to both for-profit and nonprofit employers, regardless of religious affiliation.
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