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Trump can end Obamacare's free birth control — and he doesn’t need Congress’s help

birth control collage

The Trump administration could end an Obamacare regulation requiring all insurance plans to offer no-cost birth control — and it wouldn’t even need Congress’s help.

Back in the summer of 2012, the Affordable Care Act mandated that insurance plans cover all contraceptives — from birth control pills to IUDs and implants — at no cost to the consumer.

And it turns out this could be one of the easier parts of the Affordable Care Act for Donald Trump to repeal. He doesn’t even need to send anything through Congress. He just needs to ask his Department of Health and Human Services to redefine what preventive health for women means.

How Trump could repeal Obamacare’s birth control mandate

If you read through the text of the Affordable Care Act, you won’t find any mention of “contraceptives” or “birth control.” That’s because the law doesn’t actually include a mandate to cover contraceptives.

Instead, it says that health insurance must cover preventive health benefits for women — and then punts to a division of Health and Human Services to decide what counts.

It wasn’t always clear that birth control would make the cut. When Obamacare passed, it was a genuine question whether the Obama administration would include birth control in its list. I know because I covered the debate when I was a reporter at Politico at the time. Groups like Planned Parenthood lobbied the White House to include it.

“We see this as a tremendous opportunity to get no-cost birth control in the bill and ensure that this part of women’s health is covered under preventive health,” Laurie Rubiner, Planned Parenthood’s vice president of public policy, told me at the time.

Finally, the administration issued regulations in 2011 announcing that it would include birth control as a preventive benefit for women.

A Trump administration could write its own regulation to say birth control isn’t preventive health care for women.

“The administration could by rule redefine these services not to include contraceptives, I believe, without changing the law,” Timothy Jost, an emeritus professor of law at Washington and Lee University, writes in an email.

That regulation wouldn’t need to move through Congress — and could result in millions of women losing one of the health care law’s most popular provisions.

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