HealthDay News — The Obama administration has outlined a path to free birth control for employees of faith-based employers that object to the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate.

Reflecting public feedback and concerns of some religious organizations, the administration has issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for public comment regarding contraceptive coverage with no cost sharing under the health law.

According to the proposed rules, non-profit religious organizations, including hospitals or institutions of higher education, can receive an accommodation, which offers their enrollees separate contraceptive coverage at no cost to the religious organization, and with no co-pay.

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These religious institutions would provide notice to their insurer in the case of insured plans, including student health plans, or to a third-party administrator in the case of self-insured plans. The insurer would notify enrollees of their provision of no-cost contraceptive coverage via separate individual health insurance policies. This is cost-neutral to insurers, according to HHS, since they are providing coverage to this same group of employees already.

For self-insured plans, the third-party administrator would arrange free contraceptive coverage via a separate, individual insurance policy at no cost to participants. HHS plans to waive the fee such administrators pay to participate in a health insurance exchange under the ACA to help offset costs.

The proposed rule also eliminates the rule that stated a faith-based employer must primarily serve people who share its beliefs, employ people who share its beliefs and have as its purpose the inculcation of religious values in order to receive an exemption. HHS will define faith-based employers using current Internal Revenue Service (IRS) criteria.

“Today, the administration is taking the next step in providing women across the nation with coverage of recommended preventive care at no cost, while respecting religious concerns,” Kathleen Sebelius, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary, said in a statement. “We will continue to work with faith-based organizations, women’s organizations, insurers, and others to achieve these goals.”

The proposed rules are open for public comment through April 8, 2013.