Most universities will have to cover birth control in their students’ health plans, the Obama administration said Friday.
The Health and Human Services Department said student health plans will be treated like employees’ plans, meaning they will have to comply with new requirements under healthcare reform — including the requirement to provide contraception without charging a copay.
The contraception mandate has sparked intense criticism from some religious groups and Republican lawmakers. They say it violates employers’ religious freedoms by forcing them to provide a service they find immoral.
Religious universities will treat their student plans the same as their employees’ plans, administration officials said Friday. That means they will not have to directly offer contraception in their plans, but students and workers will be able to get birth control from their insurance companies without a copay.
Women’s-health groups praised the administration's announcement.
“For many women, especially college students, birth control is not only a health care issue, it is a financial issue. Covering birth control with no co-pays means college students will not have to choose between paying for tuition and books, or paying for basic health care like birth control,” Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Cecile Richards said in a statement.
Religious schools that self-insure, rather than contracting with an insurer, do not have to provide contraception to their students. How the mandate will work for the employees of self-insured religious institutions is still being decided.