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October 13, 2015
Sen James Lankford (R, Okla), along with 14 Republican cosponsors, has introduced a bill—the Health Care Conscience Rights Act—that would allow individuals, institutions, and employers to purchase or provide insurance plans that exclude “…coverage of an abortion or any other item or service” to which they have a “…moral or religious objection.” The bill would also allow insurers to offer exclusions for abortions, or other health plan elements based on moral and religious objections, and would prohibit the government from issuing fines or other penalties for health insurance plans that fail to offer such coverage. The bill proposes to amend the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the Public Health Service Act in service of these goals (http://1.usa.gov/1NXTiUE).
The 2014 decision in Hobby Lobby v Burwell has provided court precedent protecting the right of closely held corporations to decline to pay for certain types of “morning-after” pills and intrauterine devices on religious and moral grounds (http://1.usa.gov/V2vRBZ). But the Health Care Conscience Rights Act, if passed, would expand and codify that precedent into law.
Identical legislation has been introduced in the House of Representatives with 152 co-sponsors (http://1.usa.gov/1VunjxQ).