President Trump is allowing more employers to opt out of providing no-cost birth control to women by claiming religious or moral objections, issuing new rules Friday that take another step in rolling back the Obama health care law, the AP reports. The new policy is a long-expected revision to federal rules that require most companies to cover birth control as preventive care for women, at no additional cost. Preventive services are supposed to be free of charge to employees and their dependents under former President Obama's Affordable Care Act. The administration estimated that 200 employers who have already voiced objections to the Obama-era policy would qualify for the expanded opt-out, and that 120,000 women would be affected. However, it's unclear how major religious-affiliated employers such as Catholic hospitals will respond.
The Trump administration's revision broadens a religious exemption that previously applied to houses of worship, religiously affiliated nonprofit groups, and closely held private companies. Administration officials said the new policy, which takes effect immediately, defends religious freedom. Privately owned for-profit companies, as well as publicly-traded for-profit companies will be able to seek an exemption. Doctors' groups expressed dismay over the new rule, and advocates announced plans to try to block it in court. White House officials also said the administration is tightening oversight of how plans sold under the health law cover abortion. With limited exceptions, abortions can only be paid for through a separate premium collected from enrollees. No public subsidies can be used, except in cases involving rape, incest, or preserving the life of the mother.