Weekly Round-Up: August 25th, 2014

Public Health/Contraception & Health Insurance – New Federal Rules:

  • The Affordable Care Act provision requiring health insurance coverage for contraception has been the source of ongoing controversy. Some religious nonprofits, including Catholic schools and hospitals, objected to this practice, arguing that it went against their beliefs.
  • As a way to circumvent this issue, while still granting women access to contraception, the Obama Administration required nonprofits that objected to contraception to notify the insurer who would then be responsible for the cost of the contraception coverage and for administering it. Religious nonprofits objected to this because they argued that the very act of reaching out to the insurer about providing contraception to their employees went against their religious beliefs. In essence, religious organizations saw it as a “permission slip” for women to gain access to birth control and ultimately, to use it.
  • In response to the religious nonprofits concerns and in an effort to avoid litigation, the Obama Administration announced a new way for women who work for religious nonprofits to have access to contraception while providing an accommodation for religious employers. Under new interim final regulations, nonprofit religious organizations can notify the Department of Health and Human Services of their religious objections to providing some or all contraception services under their health plan, and the Department of Labor will step in and arrange for a third party insurer to make contraception available to women free of charge.  Religious organizations are questioning whether this is still a violation of their beliefs.
  • This rule does not currently apply to all religious organizations.  In June, the Supreme Court held that closely held for-profit corporations like Hobby Lobby are allowed to opt out of making contraception available to women for religious reasons.  Hobby Lobby is an arts and crafts store owned by a Christian family.  HHS also issued proposed rules concerning accommodations for closely held corporations.
  • To read more about this, click here. (Huffington Post)


Public Health/Children – New Local Bill:

  • New York City Councilman Ben Kallos introduced a bill on Thursday, August 21, 2014, that would take the toy out of Happy Meals and other children’s meals that most commonly can be ordered for children at fast-food chains, if they do not meet certain nutritional standards.
  • The bill is being called “Healthy Happy Meals,” because legislators believe that the toy entices children to ask for Happy Meals, which are often made up of unhealthy food options.  With this new measure, toys would be associated with healthier food options.
  • Though some fast food restaurants have begun to offer fruit and fat free chocolate milk, the calories of some popular children’s meals total over 500 calories.
  • If the bill were to be passed, any meal that contains more than 500 calories and more than 600 milligrams of sodium would not be allowed to include a free toy.  A kid’s meal would also have to include a fruit, vegetable, or a whole grain serving.
  • The goal is not to strip children of the enjoyment of a new toy, but to tie the attainment of a toy to a healthy food option rather than to cheeseburgers, fries, or chocolate milk.  To read more about this, click here. (CBS NEWS)