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Contraceptive mandate set to go into effect despite legal challenge Posted: August 5th, 2012

By Maryalene LaPonsie

Maryalene LaPonsie has been writing professionally for more than a decade on topics including education, insurance and personal finance. She holds a Bachelor's Degree in Political Science from Western Michigan University.

Despite continued objections from Catholic organizations, a government mandate for contraceptive coverage is slated to go into effect on Aug. 1, 2012. A part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the mandate requires health insurance plans to pay for contraceptive coverage without requiring policyholders to pay any portion of the cost.

Expanded health insurance coverage hailed by some

The mandate to pay for contraceptive services is not specifically outlined in the health reform law. Instead, the law gave power to the Department of Health and Human Services to determine which women's preventive health care services must be covered by health insurance plans without any cost-sharing requirements.

Alongside services such as well-women visits and domestic violence screenings, the HHS added contraceptive coverage to the list of mandated preventive services. The move has been hailed by some as a significant step forward for women's health.

"It provides a major cost savings for millions of women and greater access to essential preventive health care services," California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones said in a press statement. "This new benefit makes a tangible difference in the lives of women."

Opponents argue government overreach

Meanwhile, critics of the mandate argue it violates the rights of religious employers who question the morality of artificial contraception.

Earlier this spring, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops issued this statement: "We believe that this mandate is unjust and unlawful -- it is bad health policy, and because it entails an element of government coercion against conscience, it creates a religious freedom problem."

The fight over the contraceptive mandate has gone to courts with several challenges being filed in various parts of the country. A federal court in Colorado recently ruled one business run by a Catholic family could not be forced to provide free contraceptive coverage through its health insurance plans.

Meanwhile, the Thomas More Law Center has filed an injunction to prevent the mandate from going into effect on Aug. 1. Despite the court action, there is little indication the court system will stop the mandate from being implemented.

Until the courts make a final decision on the matter, women can look forward to receiving free contraceptives through their medical insurance for at least for the foreseeable future.