Judge temporarily blocks Biden HHS removal of natural family planning from insurance coverage

Joe Biden, Xavier Becerra

On August 12, Alliance Defending Freedom and family nurse practitioner Dr. Cami Jo Tice-Harouff won a temporary victory in court against the Biden administration, which quietly attempted to remove coverage for fertility-awareness based methods (FABM) of family planning from health insurance plans last December without going through the proper channels.

In November 2021, HHS published a draft of proposed changes as to what contraceptives should be covered. They stated that the change they were looking at making was adding condoms to the covered contraceptive methods. However, something was omitted that had been there previously: coverage for FABM. Several FABM organizations submitted comments about this omission, making it clear that they objected. None of these comments were posted or addressed. The changes went into effect in December 2021.

When Tice-Harouff realized her services were no longer covered by her patients’ insurance, she took action. In March, Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) filed a lawsuit on her behalf against HHS, finding that HHS did not follow the protocols for revising regulations. According to the Administrative Procedures Act, drafts of proposed revisions to regulations must be made public for 30 days to allow for comments and objections by the public. The problem, as stated by ADF, was that there was no “no notice-and-comment process nor any rationale, which are mandated by the Administrative Procedure Act.”

READ: Women don’t need to fear using natural fertility awareness methods for family planning

U.S. District Judge Jeremy Kernodle of the Eastern District of Texas granted the temporary injunction, ordering that the revision taking away coverage of FABM cannot be implemented until a final decision is made or the proper procedures are followed. If HHS decides to submit a draft of the proposed changes according to the proper procedures and the changes are approved, they will go into effect in December 2022.

Fertility awareness-based methods of family planning, like the Creighton Method and the Marquette Method, are natural methods of tracking a woman’s reproductive cycle. They allow couples to achieve or avoid pregnancy without using artificial methods like contraception or IVF. In 2016, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) made counseling for FABM methods a covered service under the Affordable Care Act.

In order to be used effectively, these methods need to be learned from a licensed professional and require follow-up visits, hence the need for insurance coverage. Following the 2016 revision of the Affordable Care Act, practitioners could bill their patients’ insurance for these visits. Each counseling session can cost $300 to $450 and usually several are required within the first six months of using a FABM. 

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