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January 26, 2024

Washington Roundup

On January 21, 2024, The White House issued a fact sheet about new actions taken by the White House Task Force on Reproductive Healthcare Access which is marking the 51st Anniversary of Roe v. Wade. Of note to health pans, the Fact Sheet discusses

  • “Strengthen[ing] Contraception Access and Affordability for Women with Private Health Insurance. The Administration is committed to ensuring that women have access to contraception—an essential component of reproductive health care that has only become more important in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade—and reducing barriers that women face in accessing contraception prescribed by their provider. The Departments of the Treasury, Labor, and Health and Human Services (HHS) are issuing new guidance [ACA FAQ 64] to clarify standards and support expanded coverage of a broader range of FDA-approved contraceptives at no cost under the Affordable Care Act. This action builds on the progress already made by the Affordable Care Act to expand access to affordable contraception for millions of women nationwide.
  • “In addition, the Office of Personnel Management will strengthen access to contraception for federal workers, retirees, and family members by issuing guidance to insurers participating in the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program that incorporates the Departments’ guidance. OPM will also newly require insurers that participate in the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program to take additional steps to educate enrollees about their contraception benefits.”

OPM issued comprehensive guidance for carriers on contraceptive coverage in Carrier Letter No. 2022-17 back in the summer of 2022.

New ACA FAQ 64 does not announce a decision on whether group health plans are required to cover the new over-the-counter female contraceptive Opill which has not yet reached pharmacy shelves. 

In related news, the HHS and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services  announced:

  • “launch[ing] a series of actions to educate the public about their rights to emergency medical care and to help support efforts of hospitals to meet their obligations under the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA). As part of this comprehensive plan, the Department will:
  • “Publish new informational resources on CMS’s website to help individuals understand their rights under EMTALA and the process for submitting a complaint if they are denied emergency medical care;
  • “Partner with hospital and provider associations to disseminate training materials on providers’ obligations under EMTALA; 
  • “Convene hospital and provider associations to discuss best practices and challenges in ensuring compliance with EMTALA; and“Establish a dedicated team of HHS experts who will increase the Department’s capacity to support hospitals in complying with federal requirements under EMTALA.”

In sum, HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra also sent a “letter to Medicare plans, health insurance issuers, and State Medicaid and CHIP programs about upholding their [contraceptive coverage] obligations under federal law.

  • “Secretary Becerra wrote: ‘From day one, the Biden-Harris Administration has made clear that women should have access to the healthcare they need, including contraception and other family planning services. I’m writing to reaffirm that access to reproductive healthcare is a core priority of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.’”
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