McClatchy Washington Bureau
Washington — Donald Trump’s choice to lead the Department of Health and Human Services would be able to repeal one of President Obama’s most controversial initiatives: free birth control for women under the Affordable Care Act.
If confirmed, Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., a legislator with a 100 percent anti-abortion voting record, would be able to revoke the contraceptive measure, which is deeply unpopular with abortion foes, without engaging Congress.
Price, who like the president-elect has championed repealing the Affordable Care Act, would not have to wait for the overall law to be targeted by Congress because the contraceptive measure exists due to a rule enacted by the Obama administration.
“This would address the problem and could be effective the day it’s proposed,” said Martin Nussbaum, a religious institutions attorney and general counsel for the Catholic Benefits Association, which sued the government in 2014 over the provision.
The Affordable Care Act provision requires job-based health insurance plans to provide women with free coverage for all contraceptive services approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and prescribed by health professionals. They include diaphragms, birth control pills and intrauterine devices.
Though certain nonprofit religious employers that object to birth control on religious grounds don’t have to provide the coverage, they have contested the provision as an unnecessary government intrusion into their faith.
“It would be beneficial to get rid of it,” said Nussbaum. “We’ve never had so many religious institutions file so many lawsuits.”
Price in 2010 questioned the need for health insurers to offer birth control at no cost, saying he didn’t believe there were women who couldn’t afford coverage.
“Bring me one woman who has been left behind,” he demanded in an interview with ThinkProgress. “Bring me one. There’s not one.”
One option for Price would be to broaden the religious exemption to cover more organizations.
More than half of the states have laws requiring health care plans to cover birth control, but those states don’t all cover every FDA-approved method and do not ban requiring women to pay part of the cost.
Only Vermont, California, Illinois and Maryland and have laws that ban cost-sharing and require coverage of a full range of contraceptives.