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The Trump administration has started rolling back the birth control mandate

Thursday, June 1st, 2017

Federal officials, under orders by President Donald Trump, have drafted a rule to roll back the Obama-era mandate that birth control be included under all employer insurance plans.

The final shape of roll back is still uncertain: The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) website says that it is reviewing the “interim final rule” to relax the requirements on preventative services. The rule change is specifically aimed at accommodations for religious organizations, some of whom have strongly objected to requirements that they include birth control coverage under their insurance for employees.

Typically, when an agency considers changing a rule?—?which can have immediate and sweeping policy impacts?—?they publish a preliminary version, solicit comments from the public, and incorporate the feedback into revisions before handing down the final change. If the OMB is reviewing the interim final rule, however, that means the rule has already been drafted by the relevant agencies and is in the last step before being published, according to the National Women’s Law Center.

“We think whatever the rule is, it will allow an employer’s religious beliefs to keep birth control away from women. We are sure that some women will lose birth control coverage,” Gretchen Borchelt, the vice president of the National Women’s Law Center, told the New York Times.

Under the current rules, implemented under President Obama, birth control coverage is considered part of preventative medical care and must be covered by all insurers with no co-pay. The mandate has guaranteed an estimated 55 million women access to birth control and other preventative services at no additional cost to them, regardless of their employer.

In 2013, the mandate saved women $1.4 billion on birth control pills, and since the law went into effect, there has been a nearly 5 percent uptick in birth control subscriptions, according to the NWLC. The increased access to contraceptives has also correlated with a sharp drop in unintended pregnancy and abortion rates.

These public health outcomes make it easy to see why the requirement has been widely lauded by women’s health advocates and providers.

“Without question, contraception is an integral part of preventive care; women benefit from seamless, affordable access to contraception, and our health system benefits as well,” the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) said in a statement about the mandate. “ACOG strongly believes that contraception is an essential part of women’s preventive care, and that any accommodation to employers’ beliefs must not impose barriers to women’s ability to access contraception.”

The law has been hotly contested, however, by religious organizations who object to having to include birth control in their insurance plans. Trump seized on their complaints while campaigning for the presidency, and in early May, fulfilled his pledges to evangelical Christian supporters by handing down an executive order on “religious freedom” that aimed to do two things: To make it easier for faith leaders to preach politics, and to allow employers to claim a religious exemption against providing contraceptive coverage for their employees.

Trump made the proclamation alongside representatives of Little Sisters of the Poor, an order of nuns who have been some of the most vocal opponents of Obamacare’s mandate that insurance include birth control coverage?—?taking the fight up all the way up to the Supreme Court.

“Your long ordeal will soon be over,” Trump told them when he announced the order.

Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price immediately issued a statement saying that he’d be happy to take have the opportunity to reshape the requirements on birth control coverage.

“We welcome today’s executive order directing the Department of Health and Human Services to reexamine the previous administration’s interpretation of the Affordable Care Act’s preventive services mandate, and commend President Trump for taking a strong stand for religious liberty,” he said in a press relief.

Price has long been a vocal critic of the birth control mandate on grounds of religious freedom, and has also been dismissive of its benefit to women.

“Bring me one woman who has been left behind. Bring me one. There’s not one,” Price said about women having trouble paying for birth control in an interview with ThinkProgress in 2012. “The fact of the matter is this is a trampling on religious freedom and religious liberty in this country.”

According to a recent survey by polling form PerryUndem, 33 percent of American women said they couldn’t afford to pay any more than a $10 copay for their birth control. Fourteen percent said that if they had to pay for birth control at all, they couldn’t afford it.

This article was originally published at ThinkProgress on May 30, 2017. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Laurel Raymond is a reporter for ThinkProgress. Previously, she worked for Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and served as a Fulbright scholar at Gaziantep University in southeast Turkey. She holds a B.A. in English and a B.S. in brain and cognitive sciences from the University of Rochester, and is originally from Richmond, Vermont.

National Influenza Vaccination Week Calls for Paid Sick Days

Monday, January 11th, 2010

Statement of Linda Meric

Executive Director – 9to5, National Association of Working Women

Denver, CO, January 10, 2010 — The Department of Health and Human Services has declared this week “National Influenza Vaccination Week” in the United States to encourage more widespread flu vaccination and call attention to the possibility of a third mass outbreak of H1N1 flu in the U.S.

Americans – especially those with chronic health conditions who may not realize they are at high risk for developing complications from influenza – are warned not to become complacent because of the lack of  H1N1 news coverage and make decisions to skip the vaccine altogether.

But the United States faces another hurdle in ensuring that those who need the vaccine most receive it:  the lack of a national paid sick days policy.

Too many American workers lack the time they need to get themselves and their families vaccinated because they do not have access to paid sick days. For these workers – many of them low-wage workers struggling mightily to make ends meet in a tough economy — taking the time away from work to be vaccinated might mean the loss of pay or even a job.

Nearly 60 million workers lack paid sick days on the job and nearly 100 million do not have a single paid sick day in which to provide preventive care for a child or other loved one. The lack of this basic labor standard means that workers who deal with the public, like waiters and child care aides, often go to work sick, jeopardizing others because they cannot afford to lose pay in this tough economic time. It also means that they do not have the time for preventive care – like getting a flu vaccination or getting children vaccinated.

The U.S. is the only industrialized country in the world without a national paid sick days policy. But lost productivity due to sick workers costs the U.S. economy $180 billion annually. And the Institute for Women’s Policy Research actually found that, while a paid sick days policy would impose modest costs, the estimated business savings total $11.69 per week per worker from lower turnover, improved productivity and reduced spread of illness.

So, in addition to catching us up with the rest of the world, and ensuring the public health, paid sick days are good for business and good for our economy.

As we again consider the impact of H1N1 flu, we must move decisively toward passing the Healthy Families Act, federal legislation, currently pending in Congress that would guarantee paid sick days for American workers, ensuring that all Americans have the time to care for themselves and their families.

For interviews, or for more information on 9to5 and our paid sick campaigns, contact Public Relations Coordinator

Rosemary Harris Lytle at (303) 628-0925 or visit www.9to5.org.

About the Author: Linda Meric, a nationally-known speaker on family-friendly workplace policy, is executive director of 9to5, National Association of Working Women. A diverse, grassroots, membership-based nonprofit that helps strengthen women’s ability to win economic justice, 9to5 has staffed offices in Milwaukee, Denver, Atlanta, Los Angeles and San Jose. Women’s eNews welcomes your comments. E-mail us at editors@womensenews.org.

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