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Published: Friday, October 06, 2017 @ 11:21 AM
Updated: Friday, October 06, 2017 @ 11:19 AM
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is allowing more employers to opt out of providing no-cost birth control to women by claiming religious or moral objections, issuing new rules Friday that take another step in rolling back the Obama health care law.
Employers with religious or moral qualms will also be able to cover some birth control methods, and not others. Experts said that could interfere with efforts to promote modern long-acting implantable contraceptives, such as IUDs, which are more expensive.
The new policy was a long-anticipated revision to Affordable Care Act requirements that most companies cover birth control as preventive care for women, at no additional cost. That Obama-era requirement applies to all FDA-approved methods, including the morning-after pill, which some religious conservatives call an abortion drug, though scientists say it has no effect on women who are already pregnant.
As a result of the ACA, most women no longer pay for contraceptives. Several advocacy groups immediately announced plans to try to block the Trump administration rule. "We are preparing to see the government in court," said Brigitte Amiri, a senior attorney for the ACLU.
Catholic bishops called the administration's move a "return to common sense."
Trump's religious and moral exemption is expected to galvanize both his opponents and religious conservatives who back him, but it seems unlikely to have a major impact on America's largely secular workplaces.
"I can't imagine that many employers are going to be willing to certify that they have a moral objection to standard birth control methods," said Dan Mendelson, president of the consulting firm Avalere Health.
That said, Mendelson said he worries the new rule will set a precedent for weakening ACA requirements that basic benefits be covered. "If you look at it as a public health issue, it is a step in the wrong direction, and it weakens the protections of the ACA," he said.
Tens of thousands of women could be affected by Trump's policy, but the vast majority of companies have no qualms about offering birth control benefits through their health plans. Human resource managers recognize that employers get an economic benefit from helping women space out their pregnancies, since female workers are central to most enterprises.
The administration estimated that some 200 employers who have already voiced objections to the Obama-era policy would qualify for the expanded opt-out, and that 120,000 women would be affected.
However, it's unclear how major religion-affiliated employers such as Catholic hospitals and universities will respond. Many Catholic hospitals now rely on an Obama-era workaround under which the government pays for the cost of birth control coverage. That workaround can continue under the new rules.
Since contraception became a covered preventive benefit, the share of women employees paying with their own money for birth control pills has plunged to 3 percent, from 21 percent, according to the latest Kaiser Family Foundation figures.
"It was really important for women to have a choice of the full range of contraceptive methods that were FDA-approved," said Alina Salganicoff, director of women's health policy for the Kaiser foundation. "This will now make it up to the employer whether or not to cover contraception, and whether to cover all methods."
Salganicoff said she's concerned about coverage for implantable devices that are more expensive but also much more effective. "It opens up a lot of opportunities for employers to make choices about the coverage that women have right now," she said.
The Trump administration's revision broadens a religious exemption that previously applied to houses of worship, religion-affiliated nonprofit groups and closely held private companies. Administration officials said the new policy defends religious freedom. In addition to nonprofits, privately held businesses will be able to seek an exemption on religious or moral grounds, while publicly traded companies can seek an exemption due to religious objections.
"No American should be forced to violate his or her own conscience in order to abide by the laws and regulations governing our health care system," Health and Human Services spokeswoman Caitlin Oakley said in a statement.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops welcomed the administration's decision.
"Such an exemption is no innovation, but instead a return to common sense, long-standing federal practice, and peaceful coexistence between church and state," Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, the group's president, said in a joint statement with Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, head of its religious liberty committee.
Officials also said the administration is tightening oversight of how plans sold under the health law cover abortion. With limited exceptions, abortions can only be paid for through a separate premium collected from enrollees.
Doctors' groups that were instrumental in derailing Republican plans to repeal the health law expressed their dismay.
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists said the new policy could reverse progress in lowering the nation's rate of unintended pregnancies.
"HHS leaders under the current administration are focused on turning back the clock on women's health," said the organization's president, Dr. Haywood Brown.
The new rules take effect right away.
Published: Wednesday, June 20, 2018 @ 10:36 PM
Updated: Thursday, June 21, 2018 @ 5:00 PM
— Update June 21, 4:55 p.m. EST: Matt Bershadker, CEO of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), said Delta’s new policy banning pit bulls spreads “false and life-threatening stereotypes.”
“Every dog is unique, even dogs within the same breed, and their behavior is influenced by many factors,” Bershadker said in a Twitter statement. “Delta Airlines should resist unwarranted breed prejudice and rescind its breed ban.”
Original story: Delta Air Lines will limit each passenger to one emotional support animal and will prohibit pit bulls as service or support animals on flights, effective July 10.
Delta said the latest policy changes are due to “growing safety concerns” after two employees were bitten by a passenger’s emotional support animal last week.
The incident occurred in Atlanta during boarding of a flight to Tokyo Narita, and one employee was medically treated on site, according to the airline. The passenger and animal were removed from the flight.
Delta said when the new policy takes effect it will no longer accept “pit bull type dogs” as service or support animals.
The changes come after a Delta passenger was mauled by an emotional support dog on a flight last year.
Delta said it carries 700 service or support animals a day. Since 2016, the airline said it saw an 84 percent increase in reported incidents involving service and support animals, including urination or defecation and biting.
“Customers have attempted to fly with comfort turkeys, gliding possums, snakes, spiders and more,” Delta said. “Ignoring the true intent of existing rules governing the transport of service and support animals can be a disservice to customers who have real and documented needs.”
Published: Thursday, June 21, 2018 @ 10:26 AM
— McDonald’s is offering a new promotion to kick off the start of summer.
Customers who have the free McDonald’s app can get a free small McCafe Cold Brew Thursday. The new drinks are offered as a Cold Brew Frozen Coffee or Cold Brew Frappe. No purchase is needed to get the drink, but the offer may not be at every location.
According to a June 13 news release from the fast-food restaurant, the drinks are available on menus for a limited time.
Published: Thursday, June 21, 2018 @ 2:56 PM
HALIFAX, Nova Scotia — A 12-year-old boy decided he had enough and called 911 to report that his parents were forcing him to eat salad.
Police said he was so distressed that he called 911 twice, the CBC reports.
In the first call, the boy stated that one of his parents made a salad he didn’t like. Before police arrived, he called 911 again to see how much longer he would have to wait for a police officer, reiterating how much he disliked salad.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police decided to give him a break and use this as a teaching moment for the family.
“While many can relate to the dislike of a salad at times, this raises a more important issue that warrants discussion at all ages,” Cpl. Dal Hutchison posted on Facebook. “The improper use of 911 is an issue with all age groups and it ties up valuable resources, preventing emergency first responders from dealing with real emergencies.”
When asked what type of salad it was, Hutchinson told the CBC, “Obviously one to his dislike, because he called 911.”
Hutchinson said the 12-year-old's parents "were not impressed" with what their son had done when police arrived at their door.
Published: Thursday, June 21, 2018 @ 3:59 PM
— First lady Melania Trump wore an olive green jacket with the words “I don’t really care, do u?” printed on it Thursday as she boarded a plane bound for Texas ahead of a tour of a migrant child detention center.
A spokeswoman for the first lady said “there was no hidden message” in Trump’s choice.
“It’s a jacket,” the first lady’s spokeswoman, Stephanie Grisham, told BuzzFeed News after Trump’s trip. "After today's important visit to Texas, I hope the media isn't going to choose to focus on her wardrobe."
FLOTUS spox confirms Mrs. Trump wore a jacket to visit border kids that reads: "I really don't care. Do you?" Spox says: "It's a jacket. There was no hidden message. After today's important visit to Texas, I hope the media isn't going to choose to focus on her wardrobe." pic.twitter.com/Bp4Z8n455G— Jim Acosta (@Acosta) June 21, 2018
Trump wore a different, pale yellow jacket later Thursday, when her plane landed in McAllen her visit to the Upbring New Hope Children’s Center, The Associated Press reported. The center is holding 55 children.
The jacket choice raised the eyebrows of some social media users, who questioned the optics of Trump wearing such a coat, considering the purpose of her trip.
Is @FLOTUS so unfamiliar with English that she doesn’t know what the back of her jacket today says? That her initiative #BeBest is grammatically incorrect? Is there NO ONE ON HER STAFF to help her with these things?— Jane Lynch (@janemarielynch) June 21, 2018
bet Melania is really wishing she'd gone with the "IT IS IMPORTANT TO MAINTAIN THE APPEARANCE OF CARING" jacket instead— Alexandra Petri (@petridishes) June 21, 2018
Trump visited the Upbring New Hope Children’s Center and a border patrol processing center. Grisham told CNN the trip was planned because the first lady wanted “to see what’s real.”
"She wanted to see as close to what she had been seeing on TV,” Grisham said. “She wants to see a realistic view of what's happening."
The visit came one day after he husband signed an executive order ending the Trump administration’s policy of separating migrant children from parents at the border.
She previously said in a statement through Grisham that she “hates to see children separated from their families.”