Missouri Fines Insurance Provider $1.5 Million For Not Letting Employers’ Personal Beliefs Dictate Contraception Coverage

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"Missouri Fines Insurance Provider $1.5 Million For Not Letting Employers’ Personal Beliefs Dictate Contraception Coverage"

Earlier this month, Missouri legislators overrode Gov. Jay Nixon’s (D) veto to approve a bill that allow employers or health insurance providers to stop offering coverage for contraception, abortion, or sterilization if doing so violated their religious or moral convictions.

But before lawmakers passed the new law to push back against Obamacare, the state already had a decade-old law that “allows insurers to offer policies without contraception coverage to people or employers who say it violates their moral or religious beliefs,” according to the Associated Press.

Now, under the original contraception provision, the Missouri state department of insurance has issued a $1.5 million fine to insurance provider Aetna for failing to let employers opt out of contraception coverage. Additionally, Aetna provided insurance policies that covered abortion without an additional premium — in violation of a 1983 state law preventing abortion coverage in basic coverage. One official said Missouri’s settlement with Aetna is a reminder of the state’s current, restrictive laws:

“This settlement should be a reminder to all health benefit plans covering Missourians, that state law has stringent requirements honoring the religious and moral beliefs of insurance customers,” Missouri insurance director John Huff. “We will be enforcing Missouri’s decade-old contraception coverage law, as well as the new law on the subject, anywhere we see violations.” [...]

Under that newly enacted law, individuals, employers and insurers can cite religious or moral exemptions from mandatory insurance coverage for abortion, contraception and sterilization. It also changes a “may” to a “shall” when describing an insurer’s duty to provide policies without contraception coverage for those who request it.

It’s unclear what will happen to Missouri’s laws about contraception coverage because federal law invalidates them. The measures directly contradict with Obamacare’s regulation, which mandates that insurance plans cover contraception at no additional cost. The exemptions for religious organizations and accommodations for nonprofit religiously affiliated organizations do not include employers’ personal moral and religious views, making the Missouri regulations invalid under the Affordable Care Act. Under the Constitution, federal law “shall be the supreme law of the land,” and Missouri lawmakers cannot change that with a new or existing law to restrict women’s access to birth control.

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