Vermont health care officials say it is unclear how many people in the state may be impacted by a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that allows employers to opt out of covering birth control under their health insurance plans.
In a 7-2 decision issued Wednesday, the court upheld a regulation put forth by President Donald Trump that allows employers with religious or moral objections to refuse to cover birth control and other contraceptive measures under their health insurance policies.
Because of a 2016 Vermont law, almost half of insured Vermonters are not impacted by the ruling. The law requires health insurance in the state to cover contraception without an out-of-pocket cost to the patient.
However, the law does not include Vermont companies that self-insure and take on the full cost of their employees’ health care rather than going through an insurer.
While some Vermonters who get insurance through employers that self-insure could potentially see their coverage of contraception change, state officials say that the number of people who will be impacted depends on whether eligible companies and organizations choose to change their policies in light of the new federal rule.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services initially estimated in 2017, when Trump rolled out the rule, that a little more than 120,000 people nationwide will be impacted. According to a spokesperson for the agency, there were a number of metrics used to make that estimate.
“The exemptions only apply to certain entities that have religious or moral objections to the coverage, not to all plans or all self-funded plans, so the estimate was based on a number of considerations including (1) how many employers would take advantage of the exemptions, (2) how many women of childbearing age might be covered by such plans, and (3) how many of those plans were exempt or not covered by the previous regulations,” according to the HHS.
According to the Green Mountain Care Board’s 2018 annual report, which is the most recently available data, on the commercial insurance market, 259,934 people are “self-insured.” Meanwhile, 133,554 are insured through major medical insurance.
Commissioner of the Department of Financial Regulation Michael Pieciak said the scale of the impact of the decision on Vermont is unknown. Pieciak said just because the state has a self-insured population of over 200,000 people doesn’t mean all of those people will lose their contraceptive coverage.
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“That’s who is on a self-funded plan,” he said. “But you know, who’s affirmatively going to make that change and say that they have a religious or moral obligation is obviously gonna be much smaller than that if any at all in Vermont.”
Pieciak emphasized that he thinks it is “unlikely” companies or religiously affiliated organizations in Vermont would pull back from covering birth control, but the impact is still and will be largely…